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The Hoverboard Is Real. We’ve Got Video to Prove It.

Dan Tynan
Yahoo Tech

Ever wanted to soar on a board like Marty McFly? You may soon be able to do just that. It will cost you only $10,000, and require a metal floor beneath you.

Today, a Los Gatos-based startup named Arx Pax launched its Kickstarter campaign for the Hendo Hoverboard, an honest-to-goodness skateboard with nothing but air between you and the ground.

Unlike the Funny or Die HUVr spoof that fooled millions of Back to the Future fans last March, this hoverboard requires no Hollywood special effects.

Hendo hoverboard

(All photos courtesy of Arx Pax)

The Hendo relies on four disc-shaped hover engines that generate an electromagnetic field over a conductive surface (like copper sheeting), which in turn creates an opposing field within the surface. The two fields then repel each other, allowing the board to hover about an inch off the ground.

The concept isn’t new, explains CEO Greg “Hendo” Henderson, co-creator and CEO of Arx Pax (Latin for “citadel of peace”). What’s different is the company’s patented magnetic field architecture (MFA) technology, which offers a more efficient way to use electromagnetic energy.

To move 1 kilogram of material using the MFA technology requires about 40 watts of electricity. By comparison, a Black Hawk helicopter requires 160 watts of power to move the same size payload, Henderson says. Of course, a helicopter can fly more than a few inches off the ground, and over any terrain.

As a proof of concept (and to get attention from media sites like the one you’re currently reading) Henderson created the Hendo Hoverboard. Arx Pax plans to sell 10 of them for $10,000 apiece as part of its Kickstarter campaign. (The actual cost of building the boards is significantly higher, he says.)

However, buyers who pony up ten large will have to wait until Oct. 21, 2015, to receive their boards — which is, not coincidentally, the day Michael J. Fox (aka Marty) shows up at the beginning of Back to the Future 2.

McFly or die
The question is, does this thing actually work? The answer is yes, up to a point.

The Hendo was surprisingly easy to balance on, though figuring out how to navigate by shifting my weight took some getting used to. I ended up slowly spinning in circles and drifting toward the edge of the test surface, only to be gently shoved back into the middle by spotters lurking on each side.

Hendo hoverboard

The Hendo was about as loud as your average machine shop, and the vibration was fairly intense. When I climbed off, I felt like I’d gotten a great foot massage.

It’s also bulky. Built mostly of plywood and high-impact plastics, the prototype measures 19 by 38 inches and weighs just under 100 pounds. It uses eight lithium-ion polymer batteries, which run roughly seven minutes on a charge and can carry 300 pounds with ease, Henderson says.

Right now, the hover engines require a conductive but nonferrous surface like copper or aluminum. Henderson says the company plans to bring in materials experts to expand the number of surfaces compatible with the board.

In addition to the hoverboards, Arx Pax plans to sell an undetermined number of hover engine development kits for $300 apiece, hoping to crowdsource other innovative applications of MFA technology.

The company also demonstrated a prototype hover device code-named Manta Ray, which looks like a denuded Roomba and contains more sophisticated algorithms for controlling motion. Those algorithms will go into the hoverboards Arx Pax plans to distribute next year.

Liftoff
But Henderson’s ambitions are much larger than recreating an iconic device from a beloved movie. The hoverboard is merely a way to draw attention to the underlying technology, says Henderson, an architect by profession.

Greg Henderson and Jill Avery Henderson, co-founders of Arx Pax

Greg Henderson and Jill Avery Henderson, co-founders of Arx Pax.

His ultimate vision is to use MFA to create structures more resistant to damage from earthquakes, floods, and rising water levels.

In other words, the company’s real goal isn’t to transport teenagers; it’s to levitate buildings.

Even Doc Brown would be hard-pressed to top that.

Questions, complaints, kudos? Email Dan Tynan at ModFamily1@yahoo.com.