A while back we wrote about the the teaser trailer/commercial that Lexus released, showing a real life, working hoverboard, supposedly being put through it’s paces in a skatepark. Well I hope you were not pinning your hopes on owning one of these things because it turns out there a large number of caveats.
First – The good news – It’s a Hoverboard
The board is real, it really does hover, it’s not done with CGI or mirrors.
Now the whole story – It isn’t what you were hoping
The board can only hover above a special track. That skatepark in the video is actually wood painted to look like concrete with the track (similar to the sort of track used by maglev trains) buried just below the surface. The board uses superconducting magnets to hover which requires it be filled with liquid nitrogen on a regular basis (every twenty minutes in the “skatepark” in Spain, though you’d probably get an hour on it if you had one in Scotland). After your twenty minutes are up it takes another twenty minutes to “recharge”. But still, you’re thinking, that would be twenty minutes of hovertastic fun. Not so much.
The riding experience
A skate board is a pretty easy thing to ride, four wheels on the ground give a solid balanced footing. If you’ve ever tried surfing you’ll know that just standing up on the board on water is the first thing you have to master, one little shift of your balance and off you go into the water. Now combine the extreme sensitivity to balance of surfing and the hard surface of skateboarding and you’ll see the hoverboards problem. The line of strongest magnetic repulsion runs along the centre of the board, which means that unless you keep yourself levelled you end up scraping the outer edges against the floor, bringing you to an abrupt halt. The guy who rode the board in the promo has been doing so for six months and he still hasn’t got the hang of it 100%, so what chance will you have of picking it up with your twenty minutes on/twenty minutes off.
SO, is this good for ANYONE
Hard to know. If you’re a filthy rich idiot who has the money to buy/build a board like this (or three so there’s no waiting) along with the fake skate-park with the liquid nitrogen facility on hand AND you have the patience to learn to ride it, then you’ll have fun making short videos to impress your rich buddies. For everyone else, no. Not even Lexus, who undoubtedly got loads of publicity with this, but will get loads of negative publicity from all the people whose hopes they had raised see them crashing to the ground.
Back to the drawing board
So, once again our hopes are dashed. But we could chose to look on the bright side. Instead of just seeing this as a stupid, expensive stunt to flog cars we could see this as the hoverboard equivalent to Flyer 1, the wood and cloth plane built and flown by the Wright brothers. Maybe one day we’ll get the hoverboard we deserve.