Self-balancing two-wheeled board

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Airboard)
Jump to: navigation, search
A self-balancing two-wheeled board

A self-balancing two-wheeled board, or self-balancing electric scooter,[1][2][3][4][5] also commonly referred to as a hoverboard, is a type of portable, rechargeable battery-powered scooter. They typically consist of two wheels arranged side-by-side, with two small platforms between the wheels, on which the rider stands. The device is controlled by the rider's feet, standing on the built-in gyroscopic, sensored pads.[6][7][8]

In 2014, several such devices appeared in China, and by 2015, they became widely popular in the United States, following numerous celebrity appearances with the device.[9] There is no universally accepted name for the device, as its various product names are attributable to the companies which distribute it and not its manufacturers.


A cosplayer riding a self-balancing board at the 2015 Wizard World Chicago

Shane Chen, an American businessman who founded the company Inventist has made an early claim of inventing the device.[10] Chen started a Kickstarter for Hovertrax, in 2013. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Chen voiced his frustrations regarding patent rights in China. He claimed that Solowheel, his self-balancing unicycle, was copied by other manufacturers after it appeared in Happy Show, a Chinese television show.[11][12] In August 2015, Mark Cuban announced plans to purchase the Hovertrax patents from Chen.[12] Also in 2015, an American company, Inventist, claimed to hold patents and announced its intent to pursue litigation.[13]

The fast pace of the Chinese manufacturing industry makes it difficult to pinpoint which Chinese company was the first to manufacture the device. According to Wired's David Pierce, the device was likely invented as the "Smart S1" by Chic Robotics, a Chinese technology company founded in 2013, and associated with Zhejiang University.[9] The Smart S1 was released in August 2014, and found success at the 2014 Canton Fair trade show. The company patented technologies associated with the board, but due to China's lax patent enforcement, the product was copied by several Chinese manufacturers.[9]

As of June 2015, the board is made by several knockoff manufacturers in China – a pattern common in the country's technology and industrial sector.[14] The copies vary greatly in price and quality, and may exhibit various defects.[9] Most of the boards are produced in mass manufacturing factories in Shenzhen, China.[15] Some newer boards have incorporated Bluetooth speakers, allowing the driver to play music.[16]

The devices' increasing popularity in Western countries has been attributed, initially, to the wide array of celebrities who have been seen with various models of the product. These individuals include Justin Bieber, Jamie Foxx, Kendall Jenner, Chris Brown, Soulja Boy and Wiz Khalifa, among others.[9] The founders of the American company, PhunkeeTree, encountered the board at the Hong Kong Electronics Show, in 2014 and became involved in its distribution, shortly thereafter. The company gave a board to Kendall Jenner, who posted a video of her riding it, on Instagram. The video became a viral hit on social media, which led to other celebrities asking PhunkeeTree for free samples.[9]


The term "hoverboard" is sometimes used to describe these devices. However, as originally seen in the films Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part III, a "hoverboard" described a wheel-less skateboard-like device which "hovered" several centimeters/inches above the ground.[17][18] The self-balancing two-wheeled board does not have this capacity. An editor of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) commented on the September 2015 inclusion of "hoverboard" in the OED:[19]

But what is a real hoverboard? The prototypes unveiled by Lexus and ArxPax recently clearly satisfy the most important criteria for Back to the Future fans: they hover. Both rely on the repelling power of intense magnetic fields—generated by superconducting magnets cooled by liquid nitrogen—acting on a special magnetized track. So neither holds out the possibility that we’ll all be zooming around towns and cities on them anytime soon. On the other hand, the boards ridden by rapper Wiz Khalifa at Los Angeles airport recently (ridden, that is, until police wrestled him to the ground), and by a pilgrim performing the tawaf in Mecca are hoverboards in name only: the word is currently registered as a trademark in the US and the UK by manufacturers of a miniature, Segway-style, two-wheeled vehicle which stays firmly on the ground. Whether these devices take off (while not actually taking off) remains to be seen; certainly, they haven’t been round long enough to be included in the new OED entry, which restricts itself to boards that Marty McFly would recognize.


Many self-balancing two-wheeled boards are powered by lithium-ion batteries.[20][21] There have been reported instances of defective batteries, which have either short-circuited, or overheated, causing devices to self-ignite.[22] Several injuries have been reported from board-related incidents, since September 2015.[23] Spontaneously igniting boards have led to lawsuits in Louisiana and Alabama.[24]

In response, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) launched an investigation into the safety of the device.[25] On December 16, 2015, CPSC chairman, Elliot F. Kaye, released a written statement announcing the agency's investigation into "the configuration of the battery packs and compatibility with the chargers."

In the United Kingdom, authorities have also expressed concerns with the boards, regarding possible faulty wiring.[26] In Alperton, a London suburb, a 15-year-old boy was struck and fatally injured by a bus, while riding a board.[27] House fires have occurred in London[28] and Melbourne[29] during charging.

In the Philippines, the Departments of Health and Trade and Industry issued a joint advisory cautioning the public against buying them, due to reports of injuries and "potential electrocution connected with its usage." The advisory also stated “as a precautionary measure, the DOH and DTI-Consumer Protection Group therefore advise parents against buying hoverboards for children under 14 years of age.”[30]

As with most wheeled vehicles where the rider is exposed, Consumer Reports has recommended that users wear appropriate safety gear while using them.[31]


Legal restrictions on the use of this device have been imposed in some countries. In Mecca, it was banned after a video of a pilgrim, using it during hajj, was posted on social media and the rider was criticized.[32] In Germany, it is not allowed on public streets.[33] In New York City, the devices are banned under existing legislation, however, community advocates are working with lawmakers to legalize their use.[34] In England and Wales, its use is only legal on private property, with the landowner’s permission. Riding it on public pavements (sidewalks) is banned under Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, while riding it on public roads is banned under Section 170(2) of the Road Traffic Act, 1988.[35] In Scotland, it is illegal to ride on public pavements (sidewalks) under the Roads Act, 1984.[35] In Toronto, Canada bylaws don’t allow motorized vehicles on sidewalks, with the exception of mobility scooters for people who cannot get around without them.[36] In Australia, the state of New South Wales has specifically outlawed them on public streets, and is enforcing the law.[37][38] Other States in Australia have yet to make a clear decision or announcement on legality and enforcement, and are relying on existing laws in place.[39] They are free to use on private property.[39] In Hong Kong, the Transport Department issued a statement saying that under the Road Traffic Ordinance, these devices are classified as motor vehicles, since they are mechanically propelled: “Registration and licence is required before any motor vehicle is used on the roads, including private roads. However, since the construction and operation of these motor-driven devices could pose a danger to the users themselves and other road users, they are not appropriate to use on roads, hence they cannot be registered and licensed.”[40]

Additionally, several airlines have prohibited the transportation of the boards, either in stored or carry-on luggage.[41][42][43][44][45][46][47] Several universities have also imposed either outright prohibitions, or various restrictions, regarding the use of the device on-campus.[48][49][50][51][52] Others have issued formal warnings regarding the devices.[53]

Major distributors[edit]

Major, notable distributors of these devices include: Airboard,[54] Cyboard,[55] Esway,[56] Future Foot,[56] Hovertrax,[57] IO Hawk,[54] Oxboard,[54] Phunkee Duck,[55] Soar Board[58] and Swagway.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Amazon tells customers: Get rid of your exploding hoverboards Dan Hyde. The U.K. Telegraph. December 16, 2015. Retrieved January 3, 2016
  2. ^ Man Sues Hoverboard Maker Swagway Over Fire That Damaged His Home James Eng. NBC News. December 16, 2015. Retrieved January 3, 2016
  3. ^ Is The Popular Hoverboard The Most Dangerous Holiday Gift? CBS Detroit. December 29, 2015. Retrieved January 3, 2016
  4. ^ New Yorkers can’t be bothered to walk anymore Reed Tucker. New York Post. August 20, 2015. Retrieved January 3, 2016
  5. ^ Hoverboard sparks house fire in Australia The Telegraph. U.K. January 5, 2015. Retrieved January 5, 2015
  6. ^ Meet the 'hoverboard' that got Wiz Khalifa arrested Rick Broida. Fortune. August 26, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015
  7. ^ Hoverboards seen hogging limelight at Gitex Shopper Naushad K Cherrayil. Gulf News. October 5, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015
  8. ^ 2-wheel electric scooters take off Robert A. Chronkleton. The Kansas City Star. September 20, 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015
  9. ^ a b c d e f Pierce, David (29 June 2015). "The Weird Origin Story of the World’s Most Viral Scooter". Wired. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  10. ^ "About :: Inventist". Retrieved 2015-12-04. 
  11. ^ Kaiman, Jonathan (May 30, 2015). "For Solowheel maker, a patent rights nightmare in China". Los Angeles Times. 
  12. ^ a b CW33 (September 18, 2015). "Patent wars: Mark Cuban involved in 'hoverboard' battle". AOL. 
  13. ^ Jerry Beilinson. "Hovertrax and the battle of the auto-balancing skateboards". 
  14. ^ How To Make Millions Of Hoverboards (Almost) Overnight Joseph Bernstein. Buzzfeed. Nov. 27, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  15. ^ "How To Make Millions Of Hoverboards (Almost) Overnight". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 2015-12-02. 
  16. ^ Mathews, Andrew (19 October 2015). "Bluetooth Swegways: The Second Generation of Swegway". Swegway World. Retrieved 26 October 2015. 
  17. ^ hoverboard Oxford English Dictionary. 2015. Retrieved October 14, 2015
  18. ^ WATCH: The Back to the Future Hoverboard Is Real People. Laura Lane. August 5, 2015. Retrieved October 13, 2015
  19. ^ New words notes September 2015 Jonathan Dent. Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2013. Retrieved October 14, 2015
  20. ^ The Trouble With Hoverboards and Lithium-Ion Batteries Rob Enderle. December 14, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  21. ^ 'Hoverboard' Scooter Fires: Faulty Batteries May Be to Blame Laura Geggel. Livescience. December 17, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  22. ^ "Shoppers panic as hoverboard explodes at Washington mall kiosk". The Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-09. 
  23. ^ Hogan, Susan (1 December 2015). "Hoverboard blamed for house fire; family suing manufacturer". Channel 12 Eyewitness News. Retrieved 20 December 2015. 
  24. ^ Copenhaver, Stephen M.; Rubenstein, Amy M. (20 December 2015). "Oh What Fun It Is To Ride . . . A Hoverboard? This Year’s Must-Have Holiday Gift Poses Potential Litigation Risks for Manufacturers". The National Law Review (Schiff Hardin LLP). Retrieved 4 December 2015. 
  25. ^ Diana Samuels (2015-12-09). "Another hoverboard toy explodes in Louisiana, TV station says". Retrieved 2015-12-09. 
  26. ^ Tomlinson, R. Tyler (16 December 2015). "Holiday Safety Concerns: Hoverboards Catching on Fire". The National Law Review (Stark & Stark). Retrieved 21 December 2015. 
  27. ^ Walker, Peter (11 December 2015). "Hoverboard death in London believed to be first involving swegway". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 11 December 2015. 
  28. ^ Andrew Griffin (5 November 2015). "Hoverboard blows up ‘like a bomb’ and burns down house". The Independent. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ "DOH, DTI warn public vs use of hoverboards". The Philippine Star. January 10, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2016. 
  31. ^ Hoverboard Safety: Consumer Reports Puts Self-Balancing Scooters to the Test Christopher Raymond. Consumer Reports. December 15, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2015
  32. ^ "Sometimes we should all just step back a little | The National". 2015-09-02. Retrieved 2015-10-12. 
  33. ^ "Straßenzulassung für das self balancing board? (MOT approval for the self balancing board?)". Self Balancing Board (in German). Retrieved 2015-12-04. 
  34. ^ "Lawmakers Look to Make Riding Hoverboards Legal in NYC". NBC New York. Retrieved 2016-01-07. 
  35. ^ a b Griffin, Andrew (12 October 2015). "Hoverboards banned: law making ‘self-balancing scooters’ illegal was passed in 1835". The Independent. Retrieved 2015-12-04. 
  36. ^ Tchir, Jason (2015-10-15). "I want to buy a hoverboard, can I legally use it in Toronto? - The Globe and Mail". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2015-12-04. 
  37. ^ "New South Wales Is Another State Where Self-Balancing Scooters Are Banned". autoevolution. Retrieved 2015-12-08. 
  38. ^ "Hoverboards Illegal in NSW". Sydney Observer. Retrieved 2015-12-08. 
  39. ^ a b Butler, Josh (2015-03-10). "Self-Balancing Scooters Shaky Under Australian Law". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2015-12-08. 
  40. ^ 30 years on from ‘Back to the Future’, present-day hoverboards are outlawed in Hong Kong Kris Cheng. Hong Kong Free Press. October 22, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015
  41. ^ Airlines Ban Boards For Their Tendency to Spontaneously Ignite Katie Sola. Forbes. December 14, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  42. ^ Delta, United, and American Airlines are the latest to ban 'hoverboards' Sean O'Kane. The Verge. December 11, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  43. ^ Travel Advisory. Hoverboards and Similar Devices December 12, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  44. ^ 'Hoverboards' no longer welcome on Singapore Airlines flights Stephen Lambrechts. December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  45. ^ All of the USA's big airlines now ban hoverboards Ben Mutzabaugh. USA TODAY. December 14, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  46. ^ Hoverboards banned by major airlines Ahiza Garcia. CNN. December 11, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  47. ^ Malaysia Airlines bans hoverboards Yahoo News. December 19, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  48. ^ "Salve Regina University bans hoverboards amid safety investigation". AP. December 16, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015. 
  49. ^ First airlines, now colleges are banning hoverboards Nick Jaynes. December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  50. ^ "Residence Hall Handbook Update. Division of Student Affairs. University Housing". The University of Arkansas. 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015. 
  51. ^ Important Update Regarding Hoverboards Office of Student Life. University Housing. The Ohio State University. December 23, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  52. ^ UCPD to restrict and regulate on-campus hoverboard usage Jonathan Friedland. Daily Bruin. UCLA. November 2, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  53. ^ 12-14-15 "Hoverboards" Fire Safety Notice Xavier University. December 14, 2015. Retrieved December 24, 2015
  54. ^ a b c ‘Hoverboards’: A fad that may go off balance Hareth Al Bustani. The National UAE. December 13, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015
  55. ^ a b c Exploding hoverboards expose the total lack of global manufacturing standards Josh Horvitz. Quartz. December 11, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015
  56. ^ a b The Weird Origin Story of the World’s Most Viral Scooter David Pierce. Wired. June 29, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015
  57. ^ Razor rushes to release two ‘hoverboards’ before the holidays Matt McFarland. Washington Post. November 20, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015
  58. ^ 30 years on from ‘Back to the Future’, present-day hoverboards are outlawed in Hong Kong Kris Cheng. Hong Kong Free Press. October 22, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015

External links[edit]