Science Blast: How Do Hoverboards Work?

The publishers of this intriguing article sought us out to let us know that their coverage  is clearer than an earlier article we blasted on the same topic. And they were right! Their article is really intriguing, in depth, and easy to follow. Here is their fascinating article:

Hoverboard internals + circuitry

British science fiction writer Arthur C. Clark said that

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

At first glance of a self-balancing scooter that might be true. But once you take a closer look, the magic of the hover-board is simply the expansion of a science that was invented several hundred years ago. The technology may have got smaller, but the basic principles remain the same.


Understanding The Anatomy Of A Hoverboard

To help visualize how a self-balancing device works think about balancing a broom using just one hand. First, you have to find the center of the brooms balance. As it swings you may have to adjust your movements to keep it steady. Now, try and run forward holding the broom. The additional forces of movement will unbalance the broom further but, so long as you can compensate for those forces, you can keep the broom balanced.

To balance the broom you need to know two things. First, where the center of gravity is moving, and second, how to compensate for that. The foot-panels on a hover-board work in much the same way. Minute changes in weight distribution are detected and sent to the motor which provides counter power to the wheels to keep you upright.

Similar to broom balancing, in order to keep you upright, the hover-board has to know where the center of gravity is. This knowledge comes from two pieces of technology. The accelerometer and a gyroscope.


The Nervous System: GyroScopes & Acceleromoters

gyroscope is a complex looking device made up of three circular rotating bands, an axis and a spinning rotor. The science is not particularly new and is used in everything from bicycles to navigating air-crafts.

What is new is the tiny gyroscopes that can be fitted into computer chips. Have you ever wondered how smart phones know which way they are facing and automatically flip the image to be the right way up? The answer is micro electro mechanical semi conducters (MEMS) or mini gyroscopes; and they’re just one technology that personal transport devices are indebted to mobile phone developers for.

With the help of MEMS hover-boards are able to detect their position in relation to the floor. Unfortunately, they can’t detect whether or not they are in motion. That comes from accelerometers. Three of these can be fitted into a chip with the ability to measure motion in six directions.

Combining the information of the accelerometers, which measure movement, with the gyroscope, which measures gravitational position, allows the device to measure its precise movements in relation to its environment. The real wonder of modern technology is its ability to interpret those movements which comes from software.

The Brain: Logic Boards & Software

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