You've probably heard about hoverboards. Or if you have a kid or grandchildren, you probably heard about how they wanted one for Christmas. Or you've seen multiple videos out there of people falling off the hoverboards they got for Christmas.
Let's ignore for the moment that the so-called hoverboards don't actually hover. Although a Los Angeles company named Hendo actually has developed a real hoverboard using what it calls “Magnetic Field Architecture.”
We're talking here about those two-wheeled, self-balancing boards that seemed to be everywhere starting just a year ago. First time I think I was aware of it was less than a year ago, believe it or not, was when J.R. Smith of the Cleveland Cavaliers showed up for an NBA playoff game on one.
Pinning down who really developed these boards is difficult — and the exact materials used to make them — is difficult. David Pierce of Wired magazine tried to nail down the inventor, but admitted he couldn't be certain. What is certain, though, is that they're being turned out by dozens and dozens of companies around Shenzhen, China, using plastics for the boards themselves as well as in the lithium-ion batteries.
But hoverboards' time may be ending just as quickly as it began.
First came notices from airlines that they would ban the boards in luggage because of reports that the lithium-ion batteries were prone to fires, fire blamed on batteries placed in too-small spaces within the boards where they were prone to overheating.
“The scary part is it can happen anywhere — indoors, outdoors, or in your living room at home,” Jake Miller, regional public safety attaché at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission told PN's Kent Miller during an interview at the Hong Kong Toys & Games Fair.
And then along with all those Christmas videos of kids and adults trying out their new hoverboards came reports of injuries from falls off those boards.
In January the CPSC said it had launched an investigation into the safety of boards from 13 different companies.
Then this week the U.S. International Trade Commission announced it was banning the import of most of those boards, citing patent infringement issues brought forward by the makers of Segway, the self-balancing two-wheeled vehicle with handles.
(Back in that June 2015 Wired article, Pierce described his as “kind of like a Segway — but with no handlebars.”)
That doesn't mean hoverboards are going to disappear right away. There are plenty of them still offered for sale online and in stores from existing stock, but it may mean that once Christmas rolls around this year, they won't show up on quite so many letters to Santa.
In the meantime, we'll still have this video of Mike Tyson falling off his hoverboard.