Hoverboards are right up there with flying cars, talking computers and tractor beams when it comes to indications that “we live in the future,” and now, one California start-up promises that it can make you a Marty McFly of sorts. And all it will cost you is 10 grand.
One of those lucky ducks over at The Verge got to visit the Los Gatos, California, playground of Arx Pax, which has made a functioning, magnetically-powered hoverboard. It’s called the Hendo, and while it’s not going to be up to your standards if you’re thinking of zipping away in your auto-lacing Nikes, it’s still pretty cool looking.
Currently, the Hendo isn’t even in alpha stages of development. The hoverboard is in the prototype stages, and it’s also quite loud, a bit like a large hairdryer. What’s important, though, is that it does work.
What’s just as important; it only works on certain surfaces. Arx Pax built a special skate park where the surfaces are lined with one of a small set of metals, and the Hendo hoverboard glides above those metals about an inch off of the ground.
Also important; you can’t quite control it yet. Arx Pax is working on a hoverboard that will allow for better steering… or, well… actual steering. For now, though, the hoverboard just sort of coasts in one direction until the rider stops or is stopped by something.
That no-steering thing comes into play if you’re one of the fortunate folks that gets to try out the new hoverboard. In order to get your Back to the Future on, you’ve got to wear a helmet – good practice anyway – as well as some safety goggles because the casing on the prototype could fly off if it strikes the ground the wrong way. You’ve also got to sign a liability waiver because – again – no steering.
“The easiest way to describe it,” The Verge‘s Josh Lowensohn writes, “is like getting on a snow board that’s just been pulled out of an oven. Any sort of lateral control you’d have with a skateboard goes out the window.
“Instead, you’re floating, and often spinning as your body pushes certain parts of the board, adjusting its direction.”
This is, again, far from a commercial product. Right now, it’s more of a proof-of-concept, but it does appear to work. That makes it infinitely better than the hoverboard hoaxes that toyed with our emotions earlier this year. There’s no Christopher Lloyd backing this one, and no viral videos showing off fake tech; just a real – and really loud – prototype.
How does it work? Magnets! How do they work? Well, if the Insane Clown Posse taught us anything, it’s that nobody knows. Greg Henderson, inventor of the Hendo hoverboard, has some ideas, though.
“A magnet has an electromagnetic field. It is equal in all areas. It has a north and a south pole,” Henderson told The Verge. “What if you were able to take that magnet, and organize the magnetic field so that it was only on one side? And then you combine that with other magnetic fields in a way that amplifies and focuses their strength? That’s magnetic field architecture.”
Pair that field with a copper surface, and you can get a working hoverboard, apparently. That said, we’re still going with “Miracles.”
Hoverboards aren’t the only application for Arx Pax’s technology; they’re just the funnest. The company also hopes to scale up the magnetic technology that makes the hoverboard hover, using it to make buildings that will simply levitate when an earthquake or flood is coming, sparing such buildings from considerable damage.
The technology could also find applications in maglev trains and cars.
The tricky part, though, will be getting the technology to remain stable. That’s the same issue in play in making sure the Hendo hoverboard is steerable. Without solving that, those buildings could simply topple over once they’re in the air.
Arx Pax are hoping that you’ll help them perfect the technology by supporting their Kickstarter campaign. The company is looking to raise $250,000, and they’ve, so far, raised $66,511 from 201 backers. To help them make big progress toward the goal, they’re offering up working hoverboard prototypes and hoverboard rides as backer rewards.
Pledge $1,000 or more, and you get to ride the hoverboard for an hour, with coaching by the Arx Pax staff. Pledge $2,000 or more, and you get an even longer session with the hoverboard.
Pledge $10,000, and you get your very own working hoverboard prototype. That’s a pretty steep price, but nobody said the future would be cheap.
[Image Via Signe Brewster]