Exploding Hoverboards and why

There are two technologies that have consumers buzzing. Drones and Hoverboards. Of the two, drones are easily identifiable as they are understood to be unmanned aerial units. The ambiguous one being Hoverboards. No, these are not the ones in Back to the Future – Part 2 unfortunately, and they bear a closer resemblance to a Segway without the handle-bar.

Popular Science investigated what these Hoverboards are and why we are hearing about them explode. Recently, a gentleman in his late 30s was using one by a Starbucks, losing his stability and falling flat on his ass… compared to a little girl who used it just fine alongside him. This is an example of the range of consumers that found this device as the next best entertainment product in the arsenal of fun! From businessmen to Skrillex to your annoying neighbor’s children, it seems like many have been acquiring this device. The only thing that stops the Hoverboard from festering the streets is the limited stock on them, similar to how the Nintendo Wii had limited stock when it first came out.

Between Black Friday to Cyber Monday, eBay reported to have sold nearly 7,500 hoverboards on Cyber Monday, or 1 every 12 seconds [EBay Inc]. So what happens when demand is high and the supply is low? Compared to cloning video game consoles, cloning devices are much simpler. Because of this, there have been cheaply made Hoverboards strewn across the market place, many who do not have the mark of quality which started the trend and have the high capacity of– catching fire.

Michael Nunez of PopSci, had this to explain of Hoverboards:

How do they work?

Self-balancing scooters have a few basic components: a gyroscope to determine the pitch or balance of the machine, motors that keep the board balanced and move it forward, microprocessors to manage power output to the motors, and large batteries to fuel the device.

The most important function of a self-balancing scooter is (you guessed it!) remaining upright. In order to do this, microprocessors in the vehicle monitor the direction a rider is leaning. The gyroroscope, also connected to the microprocessors, helps gather information about the tilt of the board. Motors inside the board change power output to keep the rider balanced. Every self-balancing scooter is different, meaning that each one uses a different battery, set of microprocessors, and motors.

As to why they can be unsafe: I’ve mentioned that with the increase of demand, many companies will try to duplicate the technology and fulfill the need. BuzzFeed wrote an article on the factories in China which churn out these items. And much like anything China develops independently to fill a product need: quality-control is lacking. The batteries used to power the Hoverboard is large and as Michael put it “large enough to burn a house down”.

Amazon has taken the initiative to banning several popular models of the hoverboard, joining other consumer review sites and governmenets both local (NYC) and international (UK) in deeming these devices unsafe until proven otherwise [USA Today]. For now, the wisest approach is to hold-off on acquiring this device until a refinement to battery technology for consumers is available. Unless you’re loaded with money or are resistant to fire, chemical burns, and shrapnel.

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Jaynesis Ong
Jaynesis Ong 162 posts

He is currently a graphics designer by trade, illustrator for indie games, fashionisto, film production assistant, socialite, sampler of fine music, and taster of various new MMO games. JB likes destructive walks on the beach, visceral plot points, maniacal villains, and collapsing galactic empires.