Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Here’s a nonnegotiable fact: People love gadgets. But will they love miniature electric skates that are somewhere on the aesthetic spectrum between futuristic and kind of hideous? Segway sure hopes so.
The personal transportation company has debuted rechargeable roller shoes, the Drift W1s. Segway, the brains behind Gob Bluth’s favorite transit method, is marketing them as bringing “all the fun and coolness,” adding that they are the perfect purchase for “the young generation who dare to stand out and create new trends.”
Unlike those Heelys sneakers with the built-in wheels, Segway’s e-skates are meant to be worn in combination with your own shoes. They consist of platforms that you stand on, and you control them by leaning in the direction you want to move. They operate at a maximum speed of 7.5 miles per hour and a ride can last about 45 minutes before the skates have to be charged. A smartphone app controls their settings, and there’s a light at the bottom of the skates so they can be used at night.
Segway’s latest gadget comes at a pretty opportune time. The hoverboard craze has all but died, after most airlines and transportation services like the MTA banned users from bringing them on board because their batteries were spontaneously combusting.
Cities including Miami, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and Austin are also knee-deep in a battle with electric scooter companies that some have dubbed “Scootergeddon.” Companies like Bird have been accused of creating a public nuisance and setting up shop without getting the necessary city approval.
Segway’s roller shoes weigh 7.7 pounds each and are easier to transport than the electric scooters being strewn across sidewalks and wheelchair ramps. And while they look pretty fun, they don’t exactly seem like the safest thing to ride in traffic. The video promo shows the skates being used on flat terrain, but balance could definitely be an issue on anything rougher.
The company is throwing in a helmet for free with purchase, thank god, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to predict there will be trouble with these, as with any new transportation device.
If you’re interested in giving them a whirl, they cost $399 and will be available in August. Be sure to wear the helmet.