Of all the grandiose technology predicted to exist by 2015 in Back to the Future II, the Hoverboard was/is the one product that I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on. Sure, Flying cars are awesome, (until you think about how bad most drivers are while still on the ground), self-lacing shoes would same seconds of time each morning, and multi-screen televisions had 7yr old me excitingly contemplating how many competing cartoons I could watch at the same time, but the one product that captured the imaginations of a generation, was the Hover board.
Throughout my life, I’ve spent countless hours either pondering what it would take to create a viable hovering surface. Compressed air cushions sounded nice, but the tech is far too inefficient to use for the purpose of a Hoverboard. I then moved on to the idea of magnetism, it seemed the most likely as I’d seen magnets make things float before, but that would require most sidewalks to be repaved solely for the purpose of Hoverboard use. Financially impractical at best. Luckily, Professors Yoichi Ochiai, Takayuki Hoshi, and Jun Rekimoto of Japan have been working on the idea of hovering objects via the use of acoustic manipulation.
As can be seen in the video, the professors use an array of wave emitters utilizing ultrasound standing waves to levitate small objects. They’ve gotten so good at it that they are now able to not only levitate an item in mid-air, but are also able to move it three-dimensionally through localized ultrasonic standing waves generated by ultrasonic phased arrays. If the science sounds confusing, be sure to watch the video, their demonstration is clear and concise.
To be sure, this technology is still a ways of from being integrated into a purchasable product, but with enough investment capital, anything is possible. Head over to the project site for some more pictures and a more detailed explanation of the technology.