VIRAL MARKETING

That Hoverboard Video Was All a (Clever and Innovative) Hoax

A video featuring what appears to be a working hoverboard has been debunked, but the hype it generated shows how powerful viral ads can be.
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Sorry everyone, but it appears that the wait for hoverboards will continue for the foreseeable future.

Sadly, a video released this week featuring a levitating skateboard called the HUVr turned out to be an elaborate hoax. Supposedly designed by a group of MIT students, the HUVr looks similar to the hoverboards depicted in the 1989 movie Back to the Future II. 

The video, ostensibly released by a startup called HUVr Tech, quickly went viral, garnering nearly 4 million YouTube views in just two days.

HUVr Tech added to the hype on its Facebook page, proclaiming "Yes! This is real!," raising the long-held hopes of science fiction enthusiasts, 1980s kids, and tech nerds alike.

The company's website explains how the technological breakthrough came to be: "What began as a summer project in 2010 at the MIT Physics Graduate Program has evolved into one of the most exciting independent products to be developed out of MIT since the high-powered lithium-ion batteries developed by Yet-Ming Chiang in 2001," the site says. "Our team consists of materials science, electricity, and magnetism experts who've solved an important part of one of science's mysteries: the key to antigravity."

Celebrities including Christopher Lloyd (who played Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown in the Back to the Future films), skateboarder Tony Hawk, and even musician Moby appear in the video to endorse the HUVr.


But, crushing everyone's dreams, the video has been debunked by Mashable, which claims comedy site Funny or Die is behind the HUVr. The Verge has a screenshot that shows part of the wire harness used to hoist the celebrity endorsers into the air. And if you're still clinging onto hope that you can hover around like Michael J. Fox's character Marty McFly after seeing that evidence, here's the disappointing proof that one of HUVr Tech's "founders" is actually actor Nelson Cheng.

The question still remains: Why would someone go to the trouble to produce a video, set up a website, and even manage Facebook and Instagram pages? Well, getting millions of views suggests that if executed well, such as stunt is worth the effort from an advertising standpoint. Some theories are that it's a promotion for Tony Hawk's new mobile game, or Nike pushing its version of Marty McFly's self-lacing sneakers. But CNET may have the most sound theory: It may be all a teaser for Back to the Future IV.

"Let's recall that the Back to the Future series's director Robert Zemeckis perpetuated a [hoverboard] hoax after the release of the second film, claiming in a behind-the-scenes feature that hoverboards were real and not available to the public because of safety concerns," CNET's Nick Statt writes. "He kept that up, making sure it was featured in the 'extras' section of the trilogy DVD box set."

It's a sad day for hoverboard enthusiasts. But the stunt could soon turn into a dream come true for Back to the Future fans.

Check out the video below and see for yourself. 

IMAGES: Courtesy Company, HUVr
Last updated: Mar 5, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported in the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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