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The ‘hoverboards’ of today, not quite Marty McFly’s future

(Noor Gill/Daily Bruin)
(Noor Gill/Daily Bruin)

October 21, 2015 marks “Back to the Future Day,” but the future hasn’t really delivered: The hoverboard Marty McFly rode in “Back to the Future Part II” is still the stuff of dreams.

However, the self-balancing scooter, commonly known as a “hoverboard,” is very much a reality around campus. Early adopters of these devices can be seen whizzing around at a top speed of approximately six miles per hour. Running between $300 and $1799, hoverboards are easily bought online or at kiosks at the Westfield Century City mall or the Third Street Promenade.

One student, fourth-year sociology student Jacky Dai, even sells them wholesale on campus, and it was on one of his boards that I spectacularly failed at balancing myself. After trying out the hoverboard and rediscovering my lack of grace, I decided to take a look into the mechanics and history of these commercialized hoverboards.

Originating in China in 2014, the first iteration of the hoverboard was the Chic Smart S1 Electric Scooter, and since then, many copycat models have come out, also from Chinese companies. Unfortunately, they’re more Paul Blart than Marty Mcfly, as the technology is similar to that of the Segway: rolling wheels, combined with balance, just sans handlebars.

That being said, a few hoverboards that actually hover are currently in the works. Using magnetic levitation, Lexus and Hendo have both put forth prototype models, which work using electromagnets in conjunction with conducting surfaces. The limitations of both, however, mean that this technology is fairly useless for day-to-day hoverboarding.

So stop calling them hoverboards, kids. You’re just on a Segway without handlebars.

Kelly Yeo, Daily Bruin blogging contributor, tests out a hover board, one of the trendiest modes of transportation on campus. Daily Bruin Video follows her learning process to see if the newest thing on wheels is a feasible solution to making it to class on time.


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