Smart Scooters: Is Marty McFly’s Awesome Hoverboard Finally Here?
Some refer to them as smart or self-balancing scooters, while others simply call them hoverboards although they don’t really hover. But whatever you call these two-wheeled motorized scooters, one thing is for sure; these gadgets don’t only look futuristic, they’re pretty awesome as well. So awesome in fact that Back to the Future fans are going gaga over them.
You might have seen these hoverboards on the sidewalks in your neighborhood or in malls, but unlike true hoverboards, these futuristic rides don’t really float above the ground. They are not powered by magnetic levitation technology like those Maglev trains you see in Japan or Shanghai. Nevertheless, the physics and mechanics that make them run are just as cool once you know how they work.
Smart scooters run on two wheels, much like the old Segway. The main difference between the Segway and these self-balancing scooters is the handlebars. The smart scooters don’t have any, making it more challenging to operate them compared to the Segways. The trick to riding these high-tech devices is to maintain your balance, and you control them using just your feet.
To move the scooter forward, you lean forward by pushing down with your toes. To do a reverse, you lean backward by pushing down with your heels. To turn right, you push down with your left toe and push down with your right heel. This action will cause the left wheel to go forward and the right wheel to go backward, thus turning the board to the right. To turn left, you just do the opposite; you right toe forward and your left heel backward. You have to have great balance to pull this off without falling flat on your face, or at least spend hours to practice.
The key component of this amazing hoverboard is the gyroscope located inside the foot board; that and the separate motors on each wheel and the sensors that detect the tilt and speed of the board. The technology behind this device is really quite amazing. And they make great Christmas presents as well.