By Alex Ziolkowski
“It actually has a Bluetooth speaker that is pretty loud”, said Seth Ofosu
Ofosu entered Towson University’s Student Union on a hover board to the beat of his own drum.
“They definitely take the lameness out of the Segway”, said Ofosu.
Seth Ofosu is an accounting and economics major and finance minor with first-hand experience selling scooter-boards. The 23-year-old, senior, declares that the technical phrase is ‘two-wheel self-balancing personal transportation device’. He admits that referring to scooter-boards as the above phrase is exhausting and has prefers ‘hover boards’ for imagery and analogy.
“ I think the first time I saw one was at JFK airport back at the start of the summer, when some kids were riding them around the terminal, though I didn’t really know what they were”, said Mike Murphy, tech-journalist for Quartz.com.
People still call these tech-phenomena, hover boards, because of a common misconception; the world celebrated, Back to the Future Day, on October 22, 2015. In Back to the Future Part II, Marty McFly and Dr. Brown travel forward in time. The movie depicted a deceptive interpretation of the future/present.
“2015 was also supposed to be the year that Marty McFly traveled forward in time in Back of the Future Part II, where we were supposed to have actual hover boards”, said Mike Murphy. I think there’s a lot of displaced projecting with these scooter-board things.”
Whether or not scooter-boards actually levitate they are still cool to watch or ride, and feel like the future could happen tomorrow.
Riding a scooter-board is nostalgic; it’s like learning to ride a bike again, although the sensation is different. You ride a scooter-board by standing on two independent platforms connected via one axle. Each wheel has a separate motor, the rider moves back and forth or left to right by shifting their weight on the scooter; the scooter gyroscopic-ally compensates with your movement.
There are aesthetic variations among scooter-boards, but they are all fundamentally the same. Self-balancing personal transportation or novelty toys such as children’s scooters. Ironically we run into controversy with having different scooter-boards available to purchase.
A few scooter-board distributes are engulfed in a patent war to claim all rights to the scooter-boards and profits made by their imitators. Shane Chen of Camas, Washington, has had a patent for his ‘self-balancing vehicle’ since 2011, and received support from entrepreneur Mark Cuban.
“No ‘legitimate’ inventor has emerged, but Shane Chen of Inventist, holds the U.S. patent. It is unclear if it was his original idea, or if he was the first to patent it”, said Murphy. “He filed the patent back in 2011 though, so he could well be the inventor, seeing as the boards didn’t really start popping til this past January at the Consumer Electronics Show.”
The duo sued IO Hawk’s president, Joe Soibatian, for allegedly using Chen’s design. Cuban had also obtained rights to use Chen’s design to develop his own line of scooter-boards, but he recently dropped the deal to invest in, actual, floating hover-boards. The popular children’s push scooter company, Razor, didn’t hesitate to obtain the vacant licensing and release Razor scooter-boards just in time for the holidays.
“There have been some ‘developments’- like the Segway one with a balancing pole that NineBot released, which I mentioned in my post”, said Murphy. Also, since then, Razor, the company that makes those scooters that every kid in America has, has licensed Chen’s patent.”
There are ‘established’ brands such as IO Hawk, Hovertrax, PhunkeeDucks, and NineBot, all of whom are under legal attack from Chen and Cuban. These, established, brands are ironically suing smaller “knock-offs” because they are losing potential customers. Scooter-boards can cost from $300 to $1600.
Ofosu believes that it is too late for anyone to legally claim that they are the rightful and sole owner of scooter-boards. There are so many different distributors that have added their own innovations to scooter-boards. He argues, shouldn’t they have the right to patent their contribution.
All scooter-boards take about an hour to charge and have a four hour battery life, or a maximum distance before needing to be recharged.
Each variant of the scooter-board have created an assortment of features, unique to their board(s), developing a niche in an ever-changing market. Features run the gauntlet of smart-phone apps, blue tooth activation and built in speakers. These features admittedly nice, are no guarantee of quality or customer satisfaction.
This tech fad has wreaked havoc around the world on unassuming and proud scooter-board owners. By no fault of their own, some customers have seen their beloved scooters spontaneously combust and explode. Combined with another safety violation scooter-boards have been made illegal in other countries, states and cities because they can’t be used on roads and aren’t safe enough to use on sidewalks. If caught riding a scooter-board in public in New York City you can be fined $200. Scooter-boards are illegal across England.
Ofosu attributes the spontaneous combustion to poor-quality products, faulty wiring and electronics. He also thinks that people need to be reminded that scooter-boards are delicate machines. It can take a scratch but everyone cringes at a bump.
“They’re appealing because even though they catch fire and don’t hold a charge very long, they feel like the future”, said Murphy.
Rapper, Wiz Khalifa, was asked to relinquish his scooter-board at Los Angles International Airport, but refused to do so, and subsequently arrested then escorted out of LAX. Clips of the incident have surfaced on the internet. Wiz Khalifa isn’t the only pop-culture icon to use their notoriety to advertise scooter-boards.
Actor Jamie Foxx, appeared on the Jimmy Fallon Show aboard a PhunkeeDuck. The Cleveland Cavilers recently banned scooter-boards from their locker-room to eliminate distractions as they chase the NBA championship. Justin Bieber, John Legend, Kendall Jenner, Mike Tyson and Chris Brown have all been seen roving on scooter-boards.
Scooter-boards are an internet sensation. There are dozens of videos on, YouTube, of dance groups performing using scooter-boards. People are using scooter-boards to make jokes, pull-off pranks and stunts.
“I’ve danced on my board”, said Ofosu. “I can do everything I usually do just like I were standing but on my board.”
Some people are concerned that scooter-boards perpetuate laziness. While on one you aren’t ‘necessarily’ moving by your own will, but exist in a phase of stasis, merely drifting from one destination to the next. Others claim that in the right conditions scooter-boards have a functional purpose and aren’t novelty toys.
“Status and functionality”, said Ofosu,
Ofosu has met many people who are convinced that a scooter-board would make their lives, jobs, easier. He has been approached by postmen.
“I was over at the Mass Communications Building and I saw a student riding one of those [sic], scooter-boards, and right next to him I saw a student in a wheelchair”, said Rick Sanchez. “It was just kind of a juxtaposed moment were I was going, I wonder what each of them is thinking of each other at that moment. I wish I’d taken a photo of it because I would have loved to have posted it and said, Hey what does everyone think of this moment right here?”
Yet the future is nigh.
“ I would love to see it split in two and actually go on your feet because it is like a sideways skateboard, if it were more like roller skates that were automated so you can actually do stairs and other things of that nature”, said Seth Ofosu. “It would add a third-dimensional element instead moving two-dimension-ally”.
The Lexus car company has invented a legitimate hover board. The hover board does require a special track filled with magnets that are cooled by liquid hydrogen. Lexus released a commercial featuring pro skater Tony Hawk maneuvering the hover-board for the first time. Supposedly Tony Hawk had months of practice.
“Is it a fad or here to stay?”, said Ofosu.