About two months ago, husband and wife design team Greg and Jill Henderson launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the Hendo Hoverboard, a levitating skateboard they hoped to make available by October 2015. The campaign was a huge success, doubling its original goal of $250,000, and it’s been named one of TIME Magazine’s 25 Best Inventions of 2014.
What Is The Hendo Hoverboard?
The Hendo Hoverboard is exactly what it sounds like: a gravity-defying skateboard that hovers about an inch off the ground — no wheels necessary. It’s the world’s first real hoverboard, and it’s awesome.
So awesome, in fact, that legendary skateboarder Tony Hawk stopped by to take it for a spin, and loved it:
Because there’s no friction, a ride on the Hendo Hoverboard is smoother than any ride on wheels. It seamlessly integrates with your natural body movements so you have full control, and its numerous safeguards make for the safest possible experience.
How Does It Work?
The Hendo Hoverboard’s underlying technologies are all things that existed previously — but until now no one has been able to align them to produce a hoverboard.
On the Kickstarter page, the company provides this simplified explanation of how it works:
The magic behind the hoverboard lies in its four disc-shaped hover engines. These engines induce an opposing magnetic field in the surface substrate below that provides lift, levitating our board off the ground.
To dig a bit deeper, the technology depends on Magnetic Field Architecture (MFA), which is Hendo’s term for magnetic levitation.
Magnetic levitation is already used in the freight industry to suspend, guide, and propel high-speed trains for faster, quieter, and smoother transit. It works by reducing or eliminating the friction between the train’s wheels and axles and the rails. But the Hendo Hoverboard is unique in that it doesn’t depend on a track. It moves freely over a copper-plated surface.
Why copper? Well, as Greg Henderson told Live Science, copper is an inductor — a non-magnetic metal:
When you put a magnet near such a metal, an electric current starts to flow in the metal. This current, in turn, causes a magnetic field to develop outward from the metal. If the magnetic field that develops is strong enough, it can levitate the magnet. If it’s really strong, it can also levitate any object that happens to be attached to the magnet, including a hoverboard.
What Henderson and his team call “hover engines” are really electrically charged magnets, which create the device’s “primary magnetic field.” When positioned over an inductive copper surface, a strong repulsive magnetic field is produced, pushing the magnets upward and levitating the board.
One roadblock often encountered in the quest to build a hoverboard is the lack of stability. To solve that problem, the Hendo Hoverboard uses four electromagnets instead of one, which Henderson compares to the difference between trying to balance a unicycle versus a car.
The Whitebox Developer Kit
Until the hoverboard is within everyone’s reach (financially and supply-wise), the company is offering the same technology in a smaller form factor with what they call the Whitebox Developer Kit. It’s designed to be tinker-friendly — take it apart, explore it, and analyze it at will.
It will ship with the following (approximate) specs:
- Dimensions: 10″ x 10″ x 5″ (25cm x 25cm x 12cm)
- Individual Engine Dimensions: 4.5″ diameter x 2″ high (11.5cm x 5cm)
- Hover Height: 1/4″ – 1/2″ (1cm – 1.5cm)
- Battery Life: 10-15 min
- Charge Time: 1-2 hrs
- Weight: 10-12 lbs (4.5 kg)
- Payload: ~ 5 lbs (3 kg)
The Whitebox will be significantly more affordable than the hoverboard, as the team wants to get the technology into as many hands as possible.
Here it is in action:
Beyond The Hoverboard
The hoverboard is an amazing product in itself, but it’s only the beginning. The real potential lies on the road ahead.
“The Hendo Hoverboard is just the first step,” Henderson said. “It’s a proof of concept — the simplest path for demonstrating our new technology in a way everyone can understand.”
Hendo’s technology is completely scalable, meaning it can be used to hover objects of all shapes and sizes. “We’re able to turn, move, drive around in any direction, go up and down slopes, or do it all at once if you like,” said Henderson.
Imagine a vehicle that could move as freely as a car and as efficiently as a high-speed train. Long-term, this could give the wheel a serious run for its money.
Today, it’s a hoverboard. Tomorrow, it may be something far more — something world-changing.
Would you give the Hendo Hoverboard a test ride? What do you think of the technology? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!