Jan. 8, 2013 at 10:58 PM ET
Skateboards can be tricky, but with the right design and a couple of motors — not to mention huge wheels — it was possible for the ZBoard team to turn a terrifying transportation device into a fun piece of gear even the most graceless among us can handle.
Like, say, you're a tired reporter who's been running around the Consumer Electronics Show all day long and you've got a fear of skateboards. The very last thing you should consider doing is stepping onto an electric skateboard capable of top speeds between 15 and 17 miles per hour. No, wait. Stepping onto this skateboard in 4-inchheels is the worst thing you could possibly do.
So ... this is exactly what I did.
The skateboard, as I mentioned, is called the ZBoard, built by Intuitive Motion. It's an electric skateboard with two pressure-sensitive pads which allow you to control it. The board accelerates into the direction of the pad you press. Because of the way the electrical motor works, pressing the opposite pad serves as a brake — before eventually taking you in the opposite direction.
As someone who truly has zero experience on skateboards, I didn't expect to have a pleasant time on the ZBoard. To my surprise, I found that I got the hang of it within minutes. The real test of my acumen was trying it out with 4-inch heels. And I passed.
The ZBoard comes in two flavors, a 35-lb. Classic and a 28-lb. Pro version. Each can handle riders weighing between 100 and 225 pounds. The Classic's battery pack offers a 5-mile range, while the Pro can go for up to 10 miles. (The batteries take about 5 hours to fully charge, in case you're wondering.) If you decide to purchase a Classic model, you can always upgrade to a Pro later by purchasing the larger capacity battery and reaching for some basic tools, Larson tells NBC News. The upgrade kit is expected to cost about $300.
ZBoard's creators made it during their final year at the University of Southern California, as a senior project. Over the course of the two years that followed, they turned it into an actual product and debuted a prototype at CES 2012. In order to actually start producing the skateboard, Geoff Larson and Ben Forman used crowdfunding site Kickstarter. They set a goal of $10,000 and wound up collecting nearly $300,000 by the time everything was said and done. This amount included about 400 skateboard pre-orders (which were shipped out in time for the holidays).
The ZBoard Classic and ZBoard Pro can be pre-ordered for $649 and $949, respectively. They're expected to start shipping in about 6 to 8 weeks.
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