You know those self-balancing “hoverboards” that were all the rage a couple years ago, before they started spontaneously combusting and burning people’s houses down? What about those motorized electric unicycles that you’ll occasionally see people riding on? Ring a bell?
Well as it turns out, both of these innovative devices were originally created by the same guy — before they were copied like crazy and mass produced in Shenzhen, China. His name is Shane Chen, and this week he’s at CES showing off his third invention: an ultra-compact, self-balancing rideable gizmo called IotaTrax.
In terms of both form and function, IotaTrax is a happy medium between Chen’s previous two inventions, the Hovertrax (the original “hoverboard”) and the Solowheel (the original self-balancing unicycle). Just like a hoverboard, it’s equipped with two wheels — but those wheels sit between the rider’s feet rather than outside of them. Chen calls this configuration a “compromise,” but he’s just being modest. After taking it for a ride, we can confirm that it’s more like the best of both worlds.
Due to its unique design, the IotaTrax is far more compact and portable than any hoverboard you’ll find. When you fold up the foot platforms (or “wings” as Chen calls them) for transport, the device is no bigger than a six-pack of beer — and not much heavier, either. There’s even a handle on the top for you to carry it around with.
And because it’s equipped with two wheels instead of just one, the IotaTrax is inherently more stable than any electric unicycle you’ll ever ride. It’s also easier to balance on. After a top secret demo and a quick tutorial, we were doing figure-eights around the parking lot like we had been born with wheels for feet.
The Iota boasts an extremely free and intuitive riding experience — but of course, making it so simple to control was no easy task. The big challenge, Chen tells us, was figuring out how to make the device –which features two linked wheels– turn properly. In order for the rider to successfully execute a turn, one of the IotaTrax’s wheels (the outside wheel) needs to spin slightly faster than the other (the inside wheel). To make this possible, Chen actually designed and patented a completely gearless differential system — one that he hopes will make his latest creation more difficult for copycats to reverse engineer.
The IotaTrax is far more compact and portable than any hoverboard you’ll find.
All things considered, the IotaTrax is definitely one of the most exciting additions to the “rideables” category in recent memory. With its mild learning curve, ultra-portable design, and the ability to travel more than eight miles on a single charge, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a hit with city dwellers looking to hack their morning commute.
And the best part? When it goes on sale in late February (the 28th, to be exact), it’ll retail for just $599. If you pre-order one before then, you can snag it for $499 — which means it’s actually cheaper than most electric longboards currently on the market.
Head over to Inventist’s website to get the scoop.