Let's just start with this: Engineers have built a working hoverboard. Arx Pax, a company owned by husband-and-wife team Jill Avery and Greg Henderson, are seeking patents for the technology that lets them levitate a small engine and send it hovering above the floor. They're also running a Kickstarter campaign in a bid to raise a quarter million dollars.
The hoverboard technology came from the process of streamlining and simplifying the technology behind Japan's pending magnetic lift trains. At Re/code, James Temple writes about his experience trying out the hoverboard himself—he says it works, with some strong limitations.
Thinking about how the technology works, says Temple, also unveils its biggest weakness:
“Know how magnets repel one another when their like poles are facing? And remember how rubbing a magnet on something, like a paperclip, briefly makes it magnetic too?
Well, there you go.
When the hovering object is powered up, it magnetizes the surface below it using induction and that creates a magnetic field that pushes the objects apart. But that also means by definition that the hoverboard only works above conductive surfaces like aluminum and — you guessed it — copper.”
Even with these constraints, it still seems pretty fun. Here's a video of Temple, who had a chance to visit the Arx Pax offices, seeing the device up close: