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I rode the Lexus hoverboard at a skatepark in Spain

It works, but it's not great — it's also just a prop for a commercial

動くけれど、凄くはない ― 宣伝用の道具に過ぎない。

Of the many technologies predicted by the 1989 classic Back to the Future Part II, perhaps none has stirred our collective imagination more than the Mattel Hoverboard, breathlessly ridden by Marty McFly through the streets of 2015 Hill Valley. The combination of an important part of American pop culture — the humble skateboard — with not-quite-plausible futurism made for a powerful combination, and people have been trying to replicate it ever since.

1989年公開のバック・トゥ・ザ・フューチャーII で予測された多くのテクノロジーで、このマテル社のホバーボード以上に私たち全員の想像力を掻き立てたモノは、なかったかもしれない。 2015年のヒル・バレーの道路を、マーティ・マクフライが息を切らして乗っていた。 その、アメリカのポップカルチャーの重要な部分の組み合わせ。 昔ながらのスケートボードと、たいしてもっともらしいとはいえない未来志向が、強力な組み合わせのために作成された。 それ以来、人々は、これを複製することに挑戦し続けていました。

Some of those efforts have been marginally successful, but none have produced the dream of a go-anywhere skateboard replacement. Still, we want these things so badly that we keep pounding away, consistently ignoring the realities of physics in the 26 years since the film came out. This year, for obvious reasons, holds a particularly high risk of harboring half-baked BTTF II props and publicity stunts, but I don’t think anyone counted on Lexus — yes, that Lexus, Toyota’s luxury car brand — butting into the conversation.

そのいくつかの尽力は、わずかに成功し、しかし、スケートボードに替わって何処へでも行けるという夢を実現したものはありません。 映画が公開されてから26年になるが、胸を高鳴らせ、一貫して物理学の現実を無視し続けるこれらのことを、私たちは今でも大変望んでいる。 今年、明確な理由で、中途半端なBTTFⅡの小道具を保有することや、人気取りの広報活動は、特に大きな危険性を保持しています。 しかし、その会話に口出ししているレクサス ― そうレクサスです、トヨタの高級車ブランドの ― には、だれも取り合わないと思っていました。

Yet, here we are.



Last month I spent my Independence Day weekend in Cubelles, Spain — a town about an hour away from Barcelona — invited by Lexus to try out the hoverboard that it had been teasing in video spots since June. As with any hoverboard claim, I was skeptical going in: we knew that Lexus built an entire skatepark for it, but it wasn’t completely clear how it worked (if at all) and why they were going to all the trouble in the first place. Was it even remotely possible that Lexus — of all companies — was going to make the dream of the commercialized, go-anywhere hoverboard come true? Had they really done it?

先月、私は、独立記念日の週末を、Spainのバルセロナから大体1時間ほど離れた、Cubellesで過ごしました。 6月から、ビデオスポットであれこれ言われていたホバーボードを体験するために、レクサスに招待されたのです。 一体どんなホバーボードが出てくるのだろう。私は懐疑的でした。:私たちは、レクサスが全体的なスケートパークを、このために作っていたことを知っていましたが、それがどのように動くものかは、完全に明確にはなっていませんでした(もしかすると最後まで)。そして、彼らが最初の場所で全てのトラブルに向かう理由も。 それは、レクサスが商業的な夢を作ろうとして、何処へでも行けるホバーボードを実現するために、遠隔操作の可能性がありました。彼らは本当にそれを作ったのでしょうか?



History certainly wasn’t on Lexus’ side. Last March, news broke of the "HUVr," which appeared to be a very real, working hoverboard, with testimonials from Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) himself, Tony Hawk, and others. Turns out it was a hoax created by Funny or Die. And then, just months later, the so-called Hendo launched on Kickstarter to much fanfare, though it came with plenty of caveats: it would cost $10,000 and needs a copper floor in order to hover. (I suppose that if you can afford a $10,000 toy, you can afford to build a copper floor for it.)

歴史は、明らかにレクサスの側にはなかった。今年の3月、大変リアルな見た目でホバーボードの動きをする「HUVr」のニュースが出た。 ドク・ブラウン(クリストファー・ロイド)自身や、トニー・ホーク(スケートボーダー)、その他の人たちからの声に答えている。 それは、 Funny or Die によって作成されて、出てきました。 そして、その数ヶ月後、いわゆる Hendoがキックスターターで大きなファンファーレとともに発表されました。 しかし、それはたくさんの警告とともに出てきました。 価格は1万ドルで、ホバリングさせるためには銅の床が必要です。(1万ドルのおもちゃを手に入れるのなら、銅の床も作れるだろうと思います。)

  • testimonials - お客様の声、表彰状、贈与
  • caveats - 警告文

I arrived at Lexus’ Catalonian skatepark, which was the exact one that we’d seen in the teasers. The park is made out of wood that has been painted to look like cement, with an embedded magnetic track that had clearly been covered with some sort of plaster in an effort to conceal it. Strike one: the Lexus board can’t be used anywhere you want. Marty McFly would be disappointed.

レクサスの Catalonian スケートパークへ到着し、予告編で私たちが見た、まさにあれが、ありました。 その公園は、木で作れており、セメントのように塗られていました。磁石が埋め込まれたトラックと一緒に。 トラックは、明らかに漆喰のようなもので覆われていました。それを隠すためにです。 ストライク1:レクサスボードは、どこででも好きな場所で使えるものではないのです。 マーティ・マクフライは気分を害すでしょう。

  • plaster - 漆喰
  • conceal - 隠す


After an introduction from Lexus officials, we learned that Lexus had hired an advertising agency to produce an ad featuring the hoverboard — so no, Lexus did not manufacture the hoverboard itself (strike two), and yes, the board was a publicity play (strike three). Lexus’ advertising agency got in touch with a group of scientists in Hamburg, Germany who had been working on maglev technology, and had them shift focus onto creating a hoverboard. After months of prototyping and refinement, the hoverboard you see in the commercial was born.



Unlike the Hendo, which utilizes electromagnets in combination with the copper floor, the Lexus hoverboard works with liquid nitrogen-cooled superconductors and magnets. Here’s the breakdown: the hoverboard is packed with ceramic tiles (the superconductors, composed of yttrium, barium, copper, and oxygen), which are cooled down to around -180 degrees Celsius using liquid nitrogen. In order to achieve levitation, the board must be resting on a set of magnets (i.e. the track), and planks of wood are placed under the board to determine its levitation height (the more wood placed, the higher it’ll hover — with a maximum of 4cm). Once the board reaches the critical temperature, the superconductors interact with the magnets in such a way that they get "trapped" within the magnetic field (known as flux pinning in the science world) and you’ve got yourself a hoverboard of sorts.

After the introduction, one of the scientists who worked on the project brought out a just-cooled hoverboard and placed it on the track. What I saw next stunned me — I almost couldn’t believe what I was looking at: 20 feet in front of me was a hoverboard that was being pushed back and forth along a track that ran through water. The board glided effortlessly with zero friction. They’d done it. They built a working hoverboard. What was it like to ride, though?


After this quick demonstration, I was directed to a platform where I could get a better look at the board up close. There it was, floating just an inch or two off the ground in silence, spewing nitrogen gas out the sides. Dozens of cameras fired off in the media pool as the the scientist ran his hand under the hoverboard and pushed it back and forth. It was finally time to ride.

See more: The Lexus hoverboard in photos


One thing to note about the hoverboard is that it only stays "charged" (that is, it hovers) for 20 minutes, give or take, depending on ambient temperature and the weight of the rider. Once the liquid nitrogen evaporates, the board loses its superconductivity and it’s time to "recharge." Lexus actually had two boards in rotation — while one was being ridden, the other was being recharged nearby.

The board itself is about the size of a large skateboard (it reminded me of my personal 9-inch deck) and weighs about 20 lbs — much heavier than a traditional skateboard with wheels and trucks, but this one floats.


I placed my right foot on the board (I’m goofy-footed, which means my right foot is the one in front) and immediately noticed something important: it was very wobbly from side to side. It almost felt like I was trying to balance on a tightrope. I pushed with my back foot, like you would on a traditional skateboard, and instantly scraped the bottom of the deck against the ground. The smooth gliding I’d hoped for came only in short bursts, as finding balance proved to be a major challenge. I tried shifting my weight around and positioning my feet in different ways, but in the 10 or so minutes with the board, I managed to travel just a few feet (and never more) without the board scraping against the wooden park. My longest glide came when I placed my right foot on directly over the center of the board and left my left foot off the board.



While it was fun, it certainly wasn’t the hoverboarding experience depicted in Back to the Future. And this future doesn’t even exist, really, considering that the board is just a promotional tool for Lexus’ cars. Even if you can get past the limitations (hope you’ve got a liquid nitrogen tank handy!), it doesn’t really matter, since Lexus won’t sell you one of these things. What we got is movie magic — well, ad magic, in this case — and I got to experience that magic in person.

So the seemingly unattainable dream of the real Hoverboard — the one that will finally make me put away my skateboard, put on my self-lacing Air Mags, and never look back — is as alive as it ever was. Let’s go, Mattel. You’ve only got about five months to make this thing happen.