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Hoverboard viral video revealed as stunt

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Hoverboard dreams 'completely real'...

Back to the Future fans excited by a viral video of a "completely real" hoverboard wake up to realisation it was all a clever prank by comedy website Funny or Die.

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It was a new piece of "hoverboard technology" headed by scientists at a supposed start-up company called HUVr that seemingly everyone wanted to believe was real.

The "launch" video for a flying skateboard posted on Wednesday and watched by close to 6 million people led many to believe a Back to the Future II hoverboard had finally become a reality.

It generated thousands of tweets and Facebook posts, and more than 700 YouTube video responses. A further 112,000 people "liked" HUVr on Facebook.

Actress Agnes Bruckner rides a hoverboard supported by cables which have bene removed in editing.

Actress Agnes Bruckner rides a hoverboard supported by cables which have bene removed in editing.

Promising "the following demonstrations are completely real" and featuring celebrity endorsements from the likes of musician Moby, actress Agnes Bruckner, pro skater Tony Hawk and Back To The Future actor Christopher Lloyd, the video had some people knowledgeable in physics wanting to throw their science out the window in the hope it was all true. It even used MIT's name to give credibility to the technology.

But it all began to unravel when eagle-eyed viewers noticed irregularities when slowing HUVr's launch video down, and when web sleuths began tracking down who exactly was behind the video and accompanying website.

Musician Moby riding a fake hoverboard.

Musician Moby riding a fake hoverboard.

As it turned out, comedy site Funny or Die, headed by actor Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's production company Gary Sanchez Productions, made fools of everyone. The video, produced using suspension cables to make the board "hover", was a stunt.

On Thursday, Funny or Die issued an apology video featuring actor Lloyd. Lloyd said he was "tricked", "hoodwinked" and "scammed".

"You may be saying, 'Chris, what do you mean you were tricked? You were there, surely you saw the wires and cranes and effects people?'" he said.

Pro skater Tony Hawk on a hoverboard.

Pro skater Tony Hawk on a hoverboard.

"But then I say I was blinded by my old beliefs. My brain must have erased the wires for me. Let's just leave it at that. They tricked me."

People began to lash out, with many profanity-ridden posts appearing on HUVr's Facebook page and in other social media.

"Thank you for ruining my excitement over this," wrote Facebook user Edgar Moreno in one of the more subdued responses online.

Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future with a hoverboard.

Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future with a hoverboard.

"Gutted," wrote Dave Robson.

Lloyd also used the apology to say he hoped it might inspire someone "to get into hover sciences".

"Here's to hoverboards being real one day. Go do it. Make it happen - for all of us. God bless you."

Global mentions of Funny or Die and HUVr tracked over the past 2-3 days using Radian6, a social media tracking tool.

Global mentions of Funny or Die and HUVr tracked over the past 2-3 days using Radian6, a social media tracking tool.

Social media strategist Tiphereth Gloria said that prior to the big reveal most web users were "wanting to believe" the hoverboard was real.

Gloria said social media monitoring tool Radian6 clocked 64,363 global public mentions concerning elements of the video.

"The celebrity appearances acted as endorsements, so the vast majority were excited and believed it had to be real," she said.

Global public mentions of HUVr and Funny or Die over the past 2-3 days .

Global public mentions of HUVr and Funny or Die over the past 2-3 days .

But negative sentiment began to appear after the hoax was revealed.

"The overall sentiment came down as people were annoyed that the celebrities [apparently] accepted payment for the hoax," she said, adding this was always a risk with such stunts.

Even before it was unmasked, there was strong evidence pointing to a Funny or Die prank. A costume designer who worked on the shoot posted the experience on her online resume. Shortly after, it was edited.

Where most of the global social media mentions were coming from.

Where most of the global social media mentions were coming from.

Web sleuths also tracked down one of the supposed MIT scientists in the video. He turned out to be an actor who had once worked at Google.

Tony Hawk told his Twitter followers on Thursday the video was a fake and apologised.

Slate magazine's Will Oremus wrote that the hoax went too far when it displayed the "completely real" statement.

"A clever hoax invites you to believe; a bad one has to beg," he said. "This one crosses that line ... "

It amounted "to nothing but cynical exploitation of humans' tendency to believe other humans when they say something is true", he added.

About three years ago, an Australian man tried to build a motorcycle that hovered. It is still in the prototype stage and many have questioned whether it will ever work.

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41 comments

  • How could anyone fall for this? Not only does it look fake but the acting skill are appalling.

    Commenter
    shakers
    Date and time
    March 06, 2014, 3:10PM
    • I really don't have much to say other than "It's true - people really are becoming more stupid and more disconnected from reality."

      Commenter
      steveo
      Location
      sydney cbd
      Date and time
      March 06, 2014, 3:10PM
      • +1.

        Commenter
        SamDavisJr
        Location
        deep end end of the gene
        Date and time
        March 06, 2014, 3:18PM
    • Seriously?... People thought this was real? I weep for the future.

      Commenter
      aza
      Date and time
      March 06, 2014, 3:12PM
      • But it was on the internet!?

        Commenter
        Caligula
        Date and time
        March 06, 2014, 5:11PM
    • if you are gullible enough to believe that overnight the laws of physics have been suddenly conquered and the best application for this new theory was to be a skateboard then you deserve to be "gutted" "disappointed" and whatever else you might be feeling over this.

      ohh .. and the following do not actually exist:
      Santa
      Easter Bunny
      Tooth Fairy
      .. if I missed anyone please feel free to add

      Commenter
      Paul
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      March 06, 2014, 3:14PM
      • gees - come on everyone - if this technology existed and WASNT used for the very first hoverboard id be gutted for humanity. id hazard a guess that most of the dissapointed people were either 12 years old, or 12 years old in 1985.

        Commenter
        supersquirrel
        Date and time
        March 06, 2014, 3:45PM
      • Totally agree. Basic science teaching at school must be sadly lacking.

        Commenter
        City_side
        Date and time
        March 06, 2014, 4:06PM
      • But Paul Hover board is probably more realistic than Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy.

        See if you put some imagination and some science, it can work with superconductive magnetic, then of course your infrastructure and surrounding have to be magnetized.

        Of course it won't be in consumer prices either, we talking about tens of millions for just one small project.

        So in hindsight, it does work!

        Commenter
        Gerson
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        March 06, 2014, 5:00PM
      • My 6 y.o. Just lost 2 teeth & got a remote control car. Try telling him the tooth fairy doesn't exist. I am dubious about the Easter bunny though.

        Commenter
        Ddd
        Date and time
        March 06, 2014, 11:31PM

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