July 16, 2013 at 4:33 PM ET
The mysterious "Hyperloop" form of transit proposed by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk will soon be unveiled. "A cross between a Concorde, a railgun and an air hockey table," as he described it, the Hyperloop concept will make its debut on Aug. 12.
Don't expect a working device, though: he'll be publishing the "alpha design" by the 12th, according to his Twitter account, and "critical feedback for improvements would be much appreciated." So it's not exactly a done deal.
In fact, except for its purported speed, not much is known about the system, which Musk began discussing circumstantially about a year ago. He has shut down several theories, such as a magnetically levitated train that moves through a vacuum tube, and a massive spinning metal ring that could carry cars along.
The closest guess, as Musk put it, came from another Twitter user, John Gardi. He suggested a long tube full of fast-moving air (around 600 mph, or 1,000 kilometers per hour), in which passengers would speed along in "pods" that would be magnetically decelerated at stations.
If the Hyperloop is anything at all like that, it will require massive investment and construction. And while Musk is no stranger to large-scale endeavors, he has said that he doesn't expect to make the Hyperloop himself. Instead, he wants to put the design out there as an open source project, and perhaps collaborate with a likely partner (presumably, one with even greater resources than the industrialist himself).
Whatever the case, he says we'll know more by Aug. 12.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.