It seems as though we start every year asking the same question: will this be the year of the hoverboard? What we mean by this is not a Swegway that claims to be like a hoverboard, but rather a board that actually hovers.
There are some interesting products being unveiled at CES 2017, but are any of them actually hoverboards?
Technophiles will have pricked up their ears at the announcement of the unveiling of the Swagtron T6 off-road hoverboard. To use the hoverboard name suggests that we are getting closer.
Unfortunately, the photos don’t look like the hoverboards we have in mind. They are basically off-road versions of a Swegway with tougher tires and a bigger weight capacity. They are practical, appealing, but not quite what we are after. In fact, many comments on news sites simple state the following: “not a hoverboard!”.
The good news for fans of personal transportation devices is that companies are expanding into new products and pushing boundaries. There are electric bikes, scooters and surfboards that are literally testing new waters. The problem comes in creating a device that completely removes all physical objects between the board and the ground.
The new Future Motion Onewheel+ is a great step forward, as it halves the number of wheels and creates a better sense of gliding on air – in theory at least. The 2017 model is quieter, smoother, and can reach a speed of 19mph. It is an improvement on the Swegway style board and it seems as though monoboards are the most practical step forward right now.
This doesn’t mean that designers have completely given up on the idea of a hoverboard that actually hovers.
There are some designs out there that offer hope. It is just unfortunate that they are so limited, expensive and still in the R&D phase (where there are often more crashes than successful models). The most promising right now is the land/air-based version of the waterboard from Zapata.
The water version propels users into the air with jets of water. This one – the Flyboard Air – uses jet propulsion to hover off a surface and controls to move it around. It is an interesting idea, but it is more of a jetpack than a hoverboard right now. In an ideal world, we could marry the tech of the Flyboard and Onewheel into a commercial, accessible device that gentle hovers above the ground for personal transportation. Clearly we are not there yet.
Perhaps the closest thing to a practical hoverboard in 2017 is a board with VR.
A Swegway and a VR headset could be the placeholder we need. It would present the experience of using a hoverboard in a way that feels as real as we can get right now. VR headsets are certainly one of the areas with the most interest at CES for 2017, and are sure to be 2017 most interesting branch of technology now that it is more accessible and affordable.
This may put the “real” hoverboard on the back-burner for a little while but it is a nice stepping stone between the balance boards and the jet-packs until a middle ground is reached