Segway miniPRO Hoverboard: A Brief History of Innovation

This article originally appeared on LEVRevolution.com

At the turn of the 21st century, it seemed like anything was possible. By 2001, humanity saw the introduction of revolutionary ideas like the first iteration of Mac OSX and the purchase of World Championship Wrestling by the World Wrestling Federation. It seemed as if, for the first time, we were truly living in the future.

Of course, these innovations paled in comparison by the giant shadow cast by none other than Segway, the world’s newest “human transporter.” Inventor Dean Kamen built hype early in 2001 by claiming that the device would be “to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy,” predicting that the machine would sell 50,000 units within the first year and, yes, one day, completely replace the car as humanity’s number one form of transportation.

Well, it didn’t exactly happen that way. Not only was the Segway considered totally lame but also, in 2003, a Segway basically tried to killGeorge W. Bush, the then president of the United States (although we can’t rule out operator error). The death knell for Segway may have come in 2010, when the principle British investor in the company, James W. Heselden died in a tragic Segway accident.

Fast-forward to 2014 and light electric vehicles, chiefly hoverboards, have become all the rage. Suddenly, every swaggy kid on your block is riding one of these self-balancing electric scooters. Of course, with great technology comes great responsibility and, as fast as hoverboards flooded into the market, they began to flood out. It didn’t help that they were catching fire and racking up multiple safety violations.

These troubles could be traced back to the market being inundated with cheap “copycat” boards from China, which lacked any sort of UL Certification or safety regulations to speak of. Segway began to complain and attempted to block these boards from entering the U.S. market, citing patent infringement while simultaneously promising new surprises from their much-maligned brand.

It can be surmised that the “surprise” the company eluded to took place in 2015 when, ironically, Ninebot, one of the very brands Segway cited in their patent complaint, purchased Segway for a modest sum of $80 million. Yet, both companies claim that the two brands are still unique and maintain delineation between them. Although, the newfound partnership did eventually lead to a proper federal bar for any “personal transporters” found infringing on their patents.

This would all be for not had the companies not unleashed their most innovative personal transporter yet, the confusingly named Ninebot by Segway miniPRO in 2016.

The Birth of the Segway miniPRO Hoverboard

For all the jokes made at Segway’s expense, the Ninebot actually is kind of innovative and might just change the way we experience personal transportation. For one, it’s way cooler looking that the original Segways, which had more of a “lets-show-the-grandkids-around-the-new-planned-community” vibe.

A knee-high stick that adheres to the movements of the rider’s legs has replaced the handlebars, so you’re going to have find a different place to put that monogrammed knapsack. This, of course, will leave your hands open to do all kinds of other things like waving at jealous passersby or going through your pockets for loose change.

Or, this will free your fingers up for messing around on the Segway miniPRO’s Bluetooth enabled Ninebot phone app. Not only will the app allow you to control firmware updates (hold onto your shorts, people) but it will also allow you to control your board through a touch-sensitive joystick. Not while you’re riding it, though. That would be dangerous. Instead, it allows you to move the board around when a rider does not inhabit it so you can call it back to you when you fall off or if you want to anonymously frighten a flock of birds. The app also allows you to see your speed (giving you a little notification when you’re going too fast), range, and battery levels.

Unfortunately, these innovations have limited some of the specifications in regards to speed and range. The original Segways were able to go up to 12 MPH for about 17 miles on a single charge. The Ninebot by Segway miniPRO Hoverboard is only capable of 10 MPH for about 14 miles, a stark drop in range if you’re considering long-distance riding.

Upon entering the market, the Ninebot by Segway miniPRO Hoverboard was just over $1,000, putting it out of reach for many consumers. Luckily, Segway has decided to lower the price. Currently, the Segway miniPRO hoverboard can be purchased from Amazon for $599 — $749 and just in time for the holidays. The Segway miniPRO reviews have also been favorable thus far.

Segway has come a long way in these fifteen years — from scrappy to crappy and now actually pretty decent. It will be interesting to see how these two companies, Ninebot and Segway, collaborate in the future and what will come of their already fruitful relationship.