What Hoverboard's Really Are and How They Actually Work
The hoverboard, or more accurately, electronic hands-free self-balancing scooters have become one of the most enticing gifts for tech-lovers, youngsters and explorers since it was introduced in 2015. The hype is certainly justified because hoverboarding allows you to live the dream that we’ve all had since we saw Marty McFly riding a ‘hoverboard’ in Back to the Future II back in 1989.
Hoverboards owe their recent popularity to Hollywood celebrities like Justin Bieber, Whiz Khalifa and Kendall Jenner gliding in on hoverboards at concerts, on the streets, and in high-profile events. They’re now available in all kinds of colors and shades including customized graffiti. They also come with a range of accessories that protect them from damage and add to their style quotient.
What Exactly is a Hoverboard?
The modern avatar of the hoverboard is a self-balancing board with a platform that gives you the sensation of flight. Hoverboards have an average speed of 10 mph. Once fully charged, they can travel a distance of up to 15 miles.
Although real hoverboard's don’t actually levitate or fly, they can be a lot of fun to use. All you have to do is step on and the hoverboard starts moving. You can control the speed, turn and other factors by small movements of your feet, legs and torso.
These self-balancing electric scooters remain upright with the help of pressure sensors and microprocessors that gather information about the board’s tilt. Learning how to use a hoverboard can be a little tricky at first because you can’t use your hands, but after some practice (and maybe a few falls) you will be zooming around the streets of your city with ease.
Are Hoverboards Actually Hoverboards?
This is an important clarification: hoverboards are not exactly ‘hover’boards like the one you saw in Back to The Future II. Unlike in the movies, hoverboards have wheels but they are still fun to use with some imagination.
The reason hoverboards became a sensation amongst a large portion of adventure seekers is that they are battery-powered, unlike skateboards and kick scooters.This means that they can travel at faster speeds without much effort on the part of the user. They’re also easier to learn to use than skateboards and more exciting than scooters, and your hoverboarding skills can be mastered in a matter of days.
Also, you need to know that the non self-balancing electric scooters are like kick scooters, but powered. They have a handlebar, inline wheels and are quite unlike the self-balancing type discussed here.
How Does a Hoverboard Work?
The geekier side of you might wonder about the technology behind a self-propelling two-wheeled platform that balances and counter-balances your weight while attaining a reasonable speed. This tiny device has several parts that work in conjunction to ensure smooth hands-free motion. Any hoverboard will have these basic components, though there may be some variation between brands and models:
The wheels contain electric motors and tilt and speed sensors. The latter detects the RPM of an individual wheel and sends the information to the gyroscope and speed control boards that are placed in the main frame, right next to the wheels.
Platform with Gyroscope and Speed Control Boards:
When the gyroscope and speed control boards receive the tilt information and RPM from the sensor inside the wheels, they send the data to the main logic board.
The logic board is the brain of the hoverboard. This is where the processor computes in real time: the status of the board, the speed at which it’s travelling, the relative speed and the tilt of the individual wheels (when you turn, both the wheels have opposing tilts. Therefore, they have opposing RPMs and motions).
A majority of hoverboards use 36V 4400mAH battery packs to reduce the need for frequent charging. These components combine to build a hoverboard which has a frame that pivots in the center.
The gyroscopes of a hoverboard are meant to receive data from tilt sensors in the wheels and relay it to the logic board, ultimately keeping the hoverboard upright on its own. Both the footpads have switches underneath that trigger an infrared LED light, which further triggers a sensor.
While your feet are flat, the light remains on, letting the logic board know that there’s no need to run the motors. As soon as the rider positions themselves (leaning forward or backwards), the switch turns off the LED light and the sensor notifies the logic board that it’s time to run the motors.
The motors on each wheel are independent of one another which means they can move the wheels in opposite directions- that’s why you can move in circles while using your hoverboard. The hoverboard will run on its straight course as long as the sensor detects the LED light.
The light is only interrupted when the switch gets pushed due to the shift in body weight. If someone is turning left, their foot activates the front right switch, making the right wheel spin forward, while your left foot activates the back left switch, making the left wheel spin backwards.
When you lean forward, the motors are made to spin faster by the logic board- this is basically to help the device sync with your center of gravity. This simple yet effective concept helps you control the speed and direction of the hoverboard with your body weight.
Are Hoverboards Dangerous?
Despite their popularity, self-balancing scooters have been under the microscope for several reasons- safety being the foremost. We have heard of instances of hoverboards overheating or exploding. While this is concerning, this is mainly a problem with cheaply made knockoffs that don’t adhere to safety standards. The most common cause is the poor positioning of the battery and lack of proper insulation. Like most of the best ride-on toys, safety certifications are now and enforced for hoverboards in different countries.
An ideal hoverboard will have lithium batteries and logic boards located on opposite sides to reduce any chances of overheating. To ensure this doesn’t happen with you, it’s better to source your hoverboard from a reputable manufacturer directly. It’s not just mechanical issues; hoverboards also face the challenge of being banned within cities on roads and sidewalks for road safety reasons.
That’s because hoverboards are not considered a mode of transport in cities like London and New York. According to the law, motorized transports are not allowed on pavements or roads. So, it’s safe to ride these only on private property or parks in these areas. Check the relevant laws in your area and always use safety gear while operating your hoverboard to avoid any unfortunate run-ins with the law.
Precautions to Take While Buying and Using a Hoverboard
- Try to buy a light hoverboard so that you can carry it around
- Avoid steep slopes as they can reduce their efficiency
- Check the local laws about permitted areas for using hoverboard and the penalties of riding a hoverboard in restricted areas
- Hoverboards are NOT meant for children
- No matter how easily they get accustomed to it, ensure that children below the age of twelve don’t ride a hoverboard
- Perform a thorough check of the brand you’re purchasing
- Ensure that you only buy from reputable brands like Hover-X in the UK which adhere to international safety standards
- Hoverboards take several hours to charge. Don’t get impatient or your ride might get cut short prematurely
- Many airlines don’t allow hoverboards on board. Always enquire about the policies of the airline beforehand
- Beware of knock-offs that imitate major brands
- Ensure that your hoverboard comes with the manufacturer’s warranty. Buy directly from them if possible
- Always wear safety gear when you ride a hoverboard, and avoid doing stunts that might cause serious injury
What is the Future of Hoverboards?
The current form of the hoverboard has several shortcomings: small wheels and a sensitive suspension that doesn’t prove to be of much help on rough terrain. Even small cracks in the pavement, uneven sidewalks, and pebbles can obstruct your way while riding a hoverboard. Simply put, hoverboards require a seamless surface to run on. Future hoverboards might address this situation with larger wheels and suspension that further stabilizes the boards to allow off-roading.
There are some hoverboard manufacturers like Hover-X, in the UK who have developed vibration-proof bodies which means that these hoverboards are able to withstand the shocks they are subjected to. Introducing suspension will mean subjecting hoverboards to a range of terrains which means the sensors will need to have constant stability so that they can keep the board balanced.
There will also be the need for introducing a stationary axis to counter the uneven acceleration and deceleration caused by the footpads. The most important issue to be addressed in hoverboard manufacturing is the battery system which tends to overheat every now and then. Manufacturers should figure out the ideal placement and installation measures for the batteries in order to avoid any further damage. Hoverboards might also benefit from an overcharging notification system.
Are Hoverboards Right for You?
Hoverboards are the next big thing in motorized transport and they are being portrayed as the coolest gadgets in town, which they definitely are. It’s amazing to see how someone’s imagined gadget from almost three decades ago has become today’s reality.
If you love cool gadgets, 80s movie references, and adventure, then a hoverboard is going to be your perfect companion. The purpose of hoverboards is to make you look cool while you have fun riding them and that purpose is being rightly served!