When the hoverboard craze first took off, one of the most common observations from just about everyone was: “that doesn’t look like the Back to The Future Hoverboard I was expecting.”
Indeed, the “self-balancing scooters” don’t quite have the same visual aesthetic, and while that might be the most obvious difference, there are a quite a few other dissimilarities you should be aware, along with some details about some of the cutting-edge levitating hoverboards that you’ll need to keep in mind.
The Self-Balancing Scooter
Nowadays, when most people reference the term “hoverboard,” they’re referring to the commonly seen two-wheeled scooters.
These battery-powered devices use built-in gyroscopic systems to help balance the rider. Using their body weight, riders can propel themselves forward and backward as well as steer the device.
There’s a large market for these, one that is expected to grow to $1.8 billion by 2021. That number might soar even higher if regulations restricting their use, and public sentiment about their inherent dangers shifts towards the positive.
They are, admittedly, quite nifty, and saw an explosion of popularity during the holiday season of 2015. What they are not, however, are the skateboard-style levitating boards that have been the fixation of sci-fi stories popularized by authors and filmmakers for years.
Back to The Future Hoverboard: Flying Hoverboards For Sale?
We’ll not touch on older attempts at the air-cushion type vehicle, like the Hiller VZ-1, since they don’t exactly fit the “board” part of the classification (it is interesting to note, though, that the basic idea for such a device goes all the way back to the 1950s).
We’ll also be avoiding models that were expressly intended as publicity stunts meant to garner attention for technology that would primarily be used for other purposes.
The Omni Hoverboard
You can’t buy an Omni Hoverboard yet, but you can see an early design in action, courtesy of Canadian inventor Catalin Alexandru Duru, who set the world record for longest hoverboard flight. Duru could take his homemade design 16 feet into the air and soared for about 905 feet.
Again, the concern for most is battery life, and while this model isn’t quite ready for the market yet, Omni Hoverboards says their intention is to refine the design and create a model for consumers. They encourage those interested to “stay tuned” for their prototype, whenever that might unveiling.
Of all the potential hoverboard designs, this one seems to be the most practical and useful, at least when considering its ability to achieve greater heights and distances than other supposed board models.
The Hendo Hoverboard
You might have seen the Hendo Hoverboard being promoted by Tony Hawk in a few Facebook or YouTube videos at some point over the past couple years. Using magnetic levitation, the designers could get the board to levitate freely (though, only across the copper-plated surface it was developed to function over). The board incorporates electromagnets to help achieve this goal.
It’s impressive technology, but more along the lines (at this point anyway) of a tech demo than a widespread consumer product. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that decking out exterior public spaces in copper might not be all that practical?
Though you shouldn’t expect a mass-market version anytime soon, there are a few individuals that managed to snag themselves a Hendo. According to Wired:
“Ten lucky, well-heeled Kickstarter backers are each receiving their own Hendo 2.0, having spent over $10,000 each in the crowdfunding campaign. And of course, Arx Pax will keep a few on hand for demonstrations, but these will continue to be very rare beasts.”
Admittedly, it will be interesting to see where this technology heads in the future, and if this style of levitating board can become more widespread given advancements in the design.
The ArcaBoard first started getting press in late 2015. The Daily Mail reported on it during this time, showing that the board did indeed hover, but came with a hefty price tag: $20,000. The makers, Arca Space Corporation, purported that the rectangular design was the “lightest personal vehicle ever created” and was capable of moving in “every direction, including upward.”
The board has internal fans which allow it to hover off the ground (36 of them, to be precise). According to an article from Extreme Tech, the board can get about 20-30 centimeters off the ground, and it packs about 272 horsepower. According to ArcaBoard’s website, it is also capable of supporting a rider up to 243 pounds. So, aside from that staggering price, what’s the drawback?
The runtime for the board on a full charge is only six minutes. Compare that to the six hours it takes to charge the thing with a standard power source. That time is reduced to an hour with the “rapid charging dock” accessory, but the dock costs a whopping $4,500 extra.
What’s more, the design was considered by some to be impractical, and this gadget is coming from a company with limited experience creating products for a mass market. Judging from Arca’s site, though, they’re still in the game and have dropped the price of the board to $14,900.
The Lexus Slide
The Slide makes use of maglev (magnetic levitation) technology to achieve lift. According to Lexus:
Again, though, the practicality of this design leaves much to be desired. The board only works, According to CNET, at Lexus’ custom-designed park. Unless such parks become commonplace, owning this board would be a waste of effort. Not that you could purchase one yet anyways.