'Back to the Future' hover board to hit stores
Meanwhile, scientists work on insect-inspired hovering devices, and North Korea exploits hovercrafts as military vehicles.
Mon, Feb 13, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Photo: Phantom Leap/Flickr
It's been 23 years since the Michael J. Fox movie "Back to the Future Part II" was first released, but the flying hover board Fox famously flew in the film is about to become a reality.
At the New York Toy Fair this week, Mattel announced it will soon go into production on a 1:1 replica of the hover board movie prop. Billed as "movie accurate," the "Back to the Future" hover board doesn't really hover, instead, it "glides over most surfaces" — except water, Mattel is quick to point out.
The hover board will be sold by Matty Collector — Mattel's high-end spin-off for adult toy collectors — which will take pre-orders for 20 days starting March 1. But before you pull out your credit card, know that the hover board will be pricey — the actual price tag isn't being announced just yet — and it won't ship any time soon. According to the Matty Collector website: "Because this is such a high-cost item, there will be a minimum number of orders required to go into production. If we don't receive the minimum orders, we won't go into production and customers will not be charged. The price will be announced later this month."
Meanwhile, not far from the hallowed halls of Toy Fair, scientists working at New York University are exploring how to make objects hover in the future, based on the flapping flight of insect wings. In a paper published Feb. 9 in Physical Review Letters, Bin Liu and Jun Zhang of NYU's Applied Mathematics Laboratory and fellow researchers used a sub-woofer to create a column of vertical oscillations in the air. They then placed several pyramid-shaped objects, simulating bugs, into the column to observe how different physical configurations would affect stability and hovering.
While you'll probably never see a helicopter (or a hover board) with flapping wings, the tech news site The Register says devices using technology like this will be useful "at the small scale, where the viscous forces in aerodynamics become more significant compared to inertial ones."
Among the discoveries in this new research: the "bugs" that were top-heavy actually hovered better than those that were bottom-heavy. "It works somewhat like balancing a broomstick in your hand," Zhang told The Register. "If it begins to fall to one side, you need to apply a force in this same direction to keep it upright."
Small, hovering robots or other devices have long been valued for their theoretical military applications. But on the other side of the world, larger hover vehicles are being deployed militarily, as North Korea has just completed construction on a hovercraft military base which could be used to attack South Korean islands near the disputed Yellow Sea border between the two countries. "After analyzing recent satellite pictures, we concluded that North Korea has built a hovercraft base in Goampo," an unidentified South Korean government source told the Yonhap News Agency. "Currently, waters off the coast of Goampo are all frozen. But, we are still keeping a close eye since North Korea may deploy hovercraft there once the weather gets warmer."
Where's Marty McFly to save the day when he's needed?
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