Ross McGouran has devoted 20 years as a professional skateboarder but just a week back it seemed that he had to learn the art all over again. “Without friction, it feels like I’ve had to learn a whole new skill, particularly in the stance and balance in order to ride the hoverboard. It’s a whole new experience.”
Last week Ross was teaching himself to float on the hoverboard across a sequence of increasingly challenging stunts. Yes you read it right, he was testing a hoverboard – a dream that has been re-imagined time and again after 1989 Hollywood flick ‘Back to the Future II’, in which teens everywhere used hoverboards to get around.
Ross tested the hoverboard in the custom-built hover park in Cubelles, Barcelona, that included unique jumps, ramps, bowls, and even a water feature for the hoverboard to glide over. The 2-minute video featuring Ross has garnered over 8 million views in less than a week.
The video is titled, “The Lexus Hoverboard: It’s here”.
In 2015, Lexus, the luxury vehicle division of Japanese automaker Toyota dreamed to come closer to a hoverboard that can actually float over water. Carrying forward its Amazing in Motion series, in partnership with CHI&Partners, Lexus came up with the idea in its fourth campaign that took a year to put together and required hundreds of people to bring to life.
CHI&Partners and Lexus began exploring prototypes for a hoverboard more than a year ago, collaborating with a team of scientists specializing in magnetic levitation: IFW Dresden and evico GmbH. Following months of development and testing, the companies have overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges to create the Lexus Hoverboard, which uses a combination of liquid-nitrogen-cooled super-conductors and permanent magnets to float. (Wired has a detailed coverage on how the hoverboard actually works and how it is different from Hendo hoverboard, which debuted as a Kickstarter last fall.)
Dubbed as “Project Slide”, #LexusHover project launched with a 37-second YouTube clip on 24 June and went viral overnight with zero marketing spend. Titled ‘Lexus has created a real, rideable hoverboard’, the video created huge buzz around the web, particularly as it remained ambiguous as to whether this was just a PR stunt or whether this would be a product. As of date the video stands at more than 7 million views.
Speaking to PRWeek, Monty Verdi, creative director at CHI&Partners clarified that it wasn’t a stunt to capitalise on the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future, which popularised the hoverboard concept. However, Verdi told that interest in the Lexus hoverboard was likely to generate a second spike of coverage later in the year when the anniversary arrived.
After the teaser video went viral, everyone wanted to know whether it was real or another hoax? More than a million people voiced their excitement about the Lexus Hoverboard on social media, driving 590m online impressions and 9m views in less than a month. A debate followed about whether the hoverboard was real, while the skating community speculated about which pro-skater the legs in the teaser might belong to.
To address all the questions, CHI&Partners on July 15th revealed that pro-skateboard Ross McGouran would be riding the board in a hoverpark and on July 28th, a final trailer was released, announcing the launch date for ‘SLIDE’ as August 5th.
But why is Lexus re-imagining the future when it isn’t a skateboarding company?
The luxury arm of Toyota has been routinely trounced by German competition when it comes to that “cool” factor. Because a BMW, Mercedes, or Audi is considered to be something exclusive, teutonic and stylish, while for many, Lexus remains that tarted up Toyota your well-off grandparents drive.
With Project Slide, Lexus wants to project itself as a car maker that is cool and driven by the power of technology. It wants to showcase its engineering capabilities to the world, increase the cool factor and show there is “no such thing as impossible”. Besides Lexus isn’t just burning cash in the name of coolness, the project is also a part of a promotional tool for a yet to be announced car. Hopefully that is going to run on wheels.
Lexus has released a set of videos that talk about the 500 days project which has also been clubbed into a 5-minute storytelling video – The Lexus Hoverboard story.