When we first saw the ZBoard, an electric skateboard with weight-sensor controls, we hoped it would be the first powered skateboard that could actually ride, well, like a skateboard. We tested it out today and it's exactly that: a fun ass skateboard that can move on its own.
The ZBoard works like this: you tilt your weight forward on the pad and it starts zooming forward. Feel like you're going too fast? Then lean back on the back pad to hit the brakes. It's completely natural to do, just imagine yourself on a skateboard except you never have to put your foot on the ground ever again. At first, I was a little scared to go too fast (because crashing into a crowd of tech reporters carving down a mountain of shrimp cocktail isn't exactly a good look but also) because I'm not used to reaching that speed on a skateboard. The thing can go 17 miles per hour! The sensation is like rolling downhill on a solidly-built regular skateboard. Roller coaster levels of fun.
What's not so great about the ZBoard is that the front pad and rear pad used to control the skateboard is a little too wide. When I skateboard, my natural stance is right foot in the rear, left food in the middle—with the ZBoard you have to spread your legs so that each foot is on top of the wheel. Also, you can definitely feel the weight of it. Moving around on a skateboard is easier when your little moves and minute shifts of weight triggers a response from the board. With the ZBoard being so heavy (it's 28 pounds), the 'natural' skateboarding tango moves don't respond in the same fashion. Also, the foots pads could be slightly more sensitive.
But still, it's freaking fun. Geoff Larson, the guy showing off the ZBoard, took us too school by zooming in and around dining tables and people with more control than I have walking in a straight line. The ZBoard costs $650 for the 5-mile version and $950 for the longer 10-mile one (new models have red and white LED lights that are always on). The ZBoard can last 5 or 10 miles per charge (a full charge take about 5 hours). [ZBoard]