The rise of self balancing vehicles in London has certainly been a quick one. Over night ‘hoverboards’ struck fame when Wiz Khalifa, Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner took to them, sparking a panic buy from those looking to get in on the action. The amount of negative press a product gets is often a sign of its popularity, and hoverboards are no exception. In not even a year we’ve had teenagers floating into the path of busses, a government ban and a hover-robbery. But most worrying is the frequency of hover related explosions. Cheap knockoffs which have flooded the market are now catching fire and burning down houses thanks to the substandard lithium batteries used. In times like these there is an opportunity for quality products to shine through the rubbish. One of those products is Uniwheel, a self balancing micro unicycle.
Uni-wheels use some clever electronics to maintain the balance of its load on a single wheel. Unlike ‘hoverboards’ which have two wheels, uni-wheels require the user to balance side-to-side themselves. Similar to bicycles, to stay upright on the vehicle users must be traveling, though with some practice balance while static can be achieved.
We had a go at their launch last week in Shoreditch. My brain just couldn’t process it, but I’m pretty sure that if you practiced for a few hours you’d get it. To start, users place their dominant foot on one pedal and the other off pedal parallel to the other. The trick is to push-off while balancing on one leg and then quickly put the other foot on. Then it’s a case of getting up enough speed to not fall off sideways. My girlfriend (who instantly figured it out) tells me that once relaxed you feel part of the machine. I didn’t get such feeling and instead looked like a confused old man.
Uniwheel is founded by Russian investor Timur Artemev who made his millions in retail. In 2013 he invested in start-up consultancy company Project 42 who are now acting as distributor of Uniwheel. Steve Milton has taken place as CEO with the ambition of fulfilling Timur’s ambition of turning Uniwheel into the Ferrari of uni-wheels.
The company prides itself on it’s Britishness, being designed and assembled in the UK. In this they aim to deter consumers from buying those dangerous Chinese versions. In addition to its superb build quality it’s also the lightest electric transport device in the world, letting you carry it with you after you reach your destination.
But will the public accept such radical new transportation? Without some persistent marketing I fear it doomed to join Segway and Apple Watch. It will take extra effort from the team to normalise it with the world before it’s taken up by the masses. There is also the small downside of them not technically being legal on the roads or pathways, however Boris has joined in on the campaign to legalise them, saying “If the oldsters can charge towards you on their terrifying chariots, the youngsters should be able to waft on their boards. It’s intergenerational fairness”. I’m not sure whether an endorsement from Boris is especially a good thing, but things are looking good for this revolutionary transportation.