Hoverboard Comes To Life


This installation by artist [Nils Goudagnin] is a recreation of the hoverboard from Back to the Future II. We would like to see inside that plinth. We’ve seen levitating magnets before, but this is particularly stable. He says he is using lasers and a control system of some kind to stabilize it. Just to guess, we’d say that the lasers determine the distance of the board and an array of electromagnets below is adjusted to keep it level. Then again, we might be over thinking this. Even though it can’t be ridden, we’d love to have one around the office just to look at.

57 thoughts on “Hoverboard Comes To Life

  1. Are you Freaking Serious i could put magnets under a piece of woos and call it a hoverboard wow it sure looks cool but it just sits there it dont move you cant ride it nowhere whats the big deal is this really worthy of hackaday no its a joke now when i see it getting rode down the street then ill say wow till then its a big joke

  2. I want to know how the lasers come into play. Time-of-flight distancing seems impractical and expensive for something so precise. Maybe the beam is on an angle and distance is measured by optically sensing where on the board the beam hits like some of the cheap golf rangefinders.

  3. This artist’s project got me thinking (like good art is supposed to do). How could you make a real hoverboard? What technologies are left to be created to allow such a thing to be constructed?

  4. I love it when artists start tinkering around with technology.

    Sometimes it results in fantastic art. I mean, would
    you rather see paintings of fruit or this kind of
    thing in your local art museum? (Both I say.)

    Ad to everyone saying it’s a trivial project, let’s
    see yours.

    I tried to make an inverted pendulum since it’s so easy, and I got it to work. I was
    surprised how hard it was to get it mostly working, and so now I’m building a better
    mechanical system and I’m trying again.

    Everything’s trivial until you try it, and the
    negative people always want to sound smarter
    than they are by putting down accomplishments by

    Oh hey, I DID manage to get a stirling engine
    running after trying for 3 years or so! That was
    also a “trivial” accomplishment according to


  5. i recall reading somewhere that in theory a cylindrical magnetic “force field” could be inflated with air or another gas to form a gas filled balloon between the hoverboard and ground.

    this might just lift its own weight, but the argon cylinder, HV power supply and confinement magnets would be pretty heavy.

    A tethered version of this might work though.

    combine with some sort of advanced battery that could store 1 MWh worth of power and it would probably be self contained.

  6. @alankilian

    Stirling engines are trivial to make if you understand the mechanics behind it. Yours seems to have too much travel, too much friction and too much dead space to work efficiently.

    Kids build them out of soda cans and popsickle sticks for fun, and they seem to work better than yours.

  7. @zeropointmodule

    The physics of electromagnetic flux is a bit beyond me, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work like that.

    Typically, you need either a ferroid or an electric current to have an effect on a magnetic field, and if you’re trying to rest something atop the field, it would be easier to manipulate the shape of the field using coil structure and signal adjustment than pushing on it with gaseous matter.

  8. @Einomies Do the kids’ Stirling engines run off
    a 25 Watt ilghtbulb like mine?

    You’re a prefect example of what I’m talking about.
    You’re putting my results down based on what you
    you know about something.

    Where’s yours?

  9. It might be the case that a full on “Back to the Future” style hoverboard might not be feasible at this time, but I imagine that you might still be able to build something that runs on a rail system, basically creating a smaller scale version of a bullet train.

  10. This isn’t art. It’s a nifty thing to display in your house, but art requires something creative, by sheer definition. It’s like calling scale modelling “art”.

  11. What kills me about some of our nay sayers, is that they tell you how trivial, and how anyone can do this, and how this is stupid. Yet, you can barely read what they say, it is often like looking at someone typing with their foreheads. “This is be so stoopid, I r much smrartar and teh best at what me do!” You sound like a caveman.

    If you have to tell us how stupid something is, first use a spell check, and maybe read it to yourself before hitting the Submit Comment button. You might also want to experiment in the vast technical field known as “punctuation.” Learn what words to capitalize. We know you can drag wood, but do you know how to spell it? Make an attempt to sound like the smart genius you are. Right now, you sound like you could not make a hammer hit a nail. There is no way that you are going to convince me you know anything at all until you at least sound like you are not going to school on a short bus.

  12. @Daniel: Its isn’t as simple as gluing magnets, it would just flip over. My guess is that it has several electromagnets that change power to keep the board in balance, using the lasers to track displacement.

    @greycode: Well said

  13. I will chime in among the group saying this is not hackaday worthy. Behold my spelling and grammar!

    While interesting to look at, this is not a hack, nor is it that technically complicated. To someone not familiar with engineering, it is a great job- I’m sure he worked hard on it and it’s great to see people learn more about engineering and science, but, as a professional engineer, this is not that hard. Nor is it anything remotely close to making something at all like the hoverboard in BTTF. This also doesn’t get me thinking about the possible technical hurdles of a real hoverboard- that’s what the movie was for. If I were to make the same thing but used small strings to hold it up, would anyone think it was anything impressive? Of course not. Yet using magnets is supposed to somehow impress me?

    A novel discussion piece, worthy of congratulations to the designer, but hardly groundbreaking.

    And to the billion and one people who keep saying “Well if it’s so easy to do, build one yourself!”… why would I do that? Since when has identifying something as being easy required proof by actually doing it?

  14. > And to the billion and one people who keep saying “Well if it’s so easy to do, build one
    > yourself!”… why would I do that? Since when has identifying something as being
    > easy required proof by actually doing it?

    It is not the identification that is the problem, but the incessant posting of “/Solving world hunger/ -oh that’s easy, come back when you actually have aquired some skills why don’t you.”
    that people get tired of.

  15. Scatterplot: Earnshaw’s theorem explains why this is a non-trivial undertaking. So yes, you should be impressed.

    Of course, this likely made use of off the shelf magnetic levitation equipment. In particular, I am thinking of a platform by Levatron that can lift up to 4oz.

  16. @NatureTM there are different ways than TOF for shorter-ranged applications. Do some research (it’s been a while, but the phrase “Phase Difference” comes to mind).

  17. @alankilian My stirling engine runs on a cup of tea; made in about an hour. So suck it. Yeah he was rude but generally that’s what analysis is about; judging something based on what you know it could do and be.

  18. Not very original. A lesser rip-off of Dutch artist Wim T. Schippers’ work ‘het is me wat’, which loosely translates to ‘ain’t that something’. It’s essentially a floating rock, held in place by electromagnets and doppler lasers. The engineering was done by people from Delft university of technology, it can be seen at the Boymans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam.


  19. @Scatterplot Thank You and to everyone else im sorry that i dont care how i type they are just words no matter how there put together i may not be able to talk the talk but most who can dont have what they say they do money holds me back you can say im stupid dumb whatever the fact of the matter is i got IT I know i do and anyone i know can tell you the same thing it is trivial if i had the capital id show you what a real hoverboard is one day youll see

  20. @Daniel If you want money, you will have to learn how to speak the speak and write the write. No one is going to look at a sales brochure with your writing skills and say, “That man needs my million dollars.” Not speaking the language, or writing it correctly will permanently translate whatever you want to communicate into “Want fries with dat? You should try and learn it for your own good. No matter what your white paper says, you could very well have the cure for cancer, will be read if it looks like you could have been typing with two ball peen hammers.

  21. If you increased the voltage of the electromagnet could it be useable? or hazardous?
    Could you build a useable half-pike jump?

    Alternativly could it be possible to hack together wireless electric, AC 2 DC circuit board, and a snowboard covered in tinfoil. Thus have two high voltage DC currents repelling each other, creating the lift. You might have to look silly with a small rucksack, but it would be worth it!

  22. @Greycode I Aint Askin For Money Why YOu GottaBe Such A Hater Ill Type How I Want Deal And Anyway Who SAys Im GonnaBe Writhing The Brochure i Got People TO Do that For Me

  23. dont feed the trolls.

    this shit is awesome though. i mean, its not so much about the difficulty, it’s the execution and it sure as hell beats another arduino tweeting toilet

    shout outs to NatureTM for the link on magnetic levitation

  24. Yeah for anyone still interested on the types of laser rangefinding techniques, the Wikipedia article lists:


    Time of flight – this measures the time taken for a light pulse to travel to the target and back. With the speed of light known, and an accurate measurement of the time taken, the distance can be calculated. Many pulses are fired sequentially and the average response is most commonly used. This technique requires very accurate sub-nanosecond timing circuitry.

    Multiple frequency phase-shift – this measures the phase shift of multiple frequencies on reflection then solves some simultaneous equations to give a final measure.

    Interferometry – the most accurate and most useful technique for measuring changes in distance rather than absolute distances.


  25. @roger

    I believe it would be as simple as changing the desired distance setting on the laser to increase the hover altitude. The electromagnets are probably strong enough to suspend the hoverboard as much as over a foot away, but you quickly run into stability problems with that.

    The difficulty with making it a usable hoverboard similarly rises from stability problems. Yes, like magnetic poles repel, but unlike poles still attract, so absent other forces, a magnet suspended above another will simply “do a barrel roll” and stick upside-down. This would be undesirable with a rider, and the reason the board is stable in the exhibit, I suspect, has more to do with the pillar it levitates over than the board itself. In short, to make something like this work, you would have to have a set of vehicles underneath the ground suspending the board above them: an engineering feat which gives logistical nightmares logistical nightmares, and the riders couldn’t get close to each other or the boards would start interfering, causing the balance issues to arise again.

    Also, it’s “half-pipe.” A half-pike is called a stick.

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