Hoverboard Invention (Year, Who)

It’s no secret that the hoverboard has taken the world by storm. But what you may not know is that the history of this incredible invention stretches back much further than you might think. In fact, the first patent for something resembling a hoverboard was filed all the way back in 1966! Of course, it would take many years for the technology to catch up with the dream, and it wasn’t until 2015 that we finally saw a commercially available hoverboard.

First Mention of Hoverboards in the 1960s – Initial Origins of Hoverboard word

According to Merriam-Webster, The term “hoverboard” was first used in a 1967 science fiction novel by M.K. Joseph and later popularized in the 1989 film Back to the Future Part II when the character Marty McFly uses one after traveling to 2015. While the first trademarked use of a hoverboard was registered in 1996 as part of a collecting and trading game, it wasn’t until 1999 that it became known as a commercial name representing a wheeled scooter.

Who Invented and patented Hoverboard – Shane Chen:

Shane Chen is a Chinese-American inventor and entrepreneur based in Camas, WA USA. He is best known for inventing the self-balancing hoverboard.

Below is an image of Shen Chen from his Wikipedia page.

Image of Shane Chen, formally-recognized inventor of hoverboards
Image of Shane Chen, formally-recognized inventor of hoverboards. Source: Wikipedia

Below is an extract from Google’s Patents in which Shane Chen applied for patent with the US Patents Office.

“A two-wheel, self-balancing personal vehicle having independently movable foot placement sections. The foot placement sections have an associated wheel, sensor and motor and are independently self-balancing which gives the user independent control over the movement of each platform section by the magnitude and direction of tilt a user induces in a given platform section. Various embodiments are disclosed including those with a continuous housing, discrete platform sections and/or tapering platform sections.”

Shane filed his patent application in 2012 and was approved in 2014(may).

Below is a sketch of Shane’s hoverboard;

A snapshot of the first hoverboard design presented by Shane during patente application.
A snapshot of the first hoverboard design presented by Shane during patent application.

Below is a snapshot of Shane’s story posted on US Government’s Patent Office.

Snapshot of Shane Chen's complaints about China's Intellectual Property Environment for Hoverboards and electronics
Snapshot of Shane Chen’s complaints about China’s Intellectual Property Environment for Hoverboards and electronics

Some sources claim that the idea of a hoverboard had been around prior to 2013 and that no one had been willing to go commercial with this new invention. I could not find any evidence of hoverboards designed prior to 2013.

Even prior to the approval of his pending patent application, Chen started a Kickstarter campaign in May 2013 and manufactured a Hoverboard which he named‘Hovertrax’. He started selling it under the name of his company ‘Inventist’.

What year was Hoverboard Invented? 2012

In 2012, Shane Chen had completed designs and schematics of his e-scooter/hoverboard invention but did not apply for a patent until February 11, 2013. It took another year, until May 27th 2014 for the US Patents Office to grant the patent to Shane and by then, several Chinese manufacturers were already churning out substandard hoverboards.

As someone who has studied hoverboard designs and their development since the inaugural commercial models debuted in 2015, I feel that 2012 should be officially recognized as the year of the hoverboard’s invention. This is due to the fact that it was in 2012 when Shane completed the initial prototype, which subsequently gained Kickstarter’s backing.

You may have noticed some online sites claiming that 2013, 2014, and even 2015 as Solowheel’s official launch date, but the truth is that Shane Chen’s original product was never actually released to the public. The first hoverboards that were sold to consumers were created by other companies who had copied Shane’s design.

In an interview with Wired in 2016, Shane Chen noted that he actually created the Solowheel in 2010 and the Hovertrax in 2011, but we didn’t make it until 2013. This is the basis for some quoting years as early as 2010 as the true date and year that hoverboards were invented.

What exactly was the invention:

Sensor:

The 3-axis gyroscope and accelerometer work together on a digital motion processor to produce complex 6-axis motion fusion algorithms, also known as an inertial measurement unit.

Snapshot of hoverboard mechanical inventions that made it possible to be ridden
Snapshot of hoverboard mechanical inventions that made it possible to be ridden

How Chen got the idea to Invent the Hoverboard:

According to Patentyogi, Chen claims he came up with the idea for Hovertrax in September 2011 while attempting to come up with new toy ideas. After filing a provisional patent, Chen created the first prototype and took it to Toy Fair 2012. Shane Chen filed a lawsuit against Siobatian Corporation, which sells Chic robots hoverboard in the United States and IO Hawk, under the name IO Hawk recently.

Hoverboard Invention Date:

Using the data from US Patents Office and Google Patents repository, it is fair to use February 12, 2012, as the date of the hoverboard invention. This is the day Shane Chen indicated the finalization of the final e-scooter designs and schematics with the development of the first model which had been developed and improved from as early as 2010.

Below is a snapshot from Google Patents repository indicating the timelines of Shane Chen’s invention in 2012 prior to his patent application in 2013 and subsequent approval of his application in 2014.

A snapshot from the Google Patents repository indicating the timelines of Shane Chen's invention in 2012 prior to his patent application in 2013 and subsequent approval of his application in 2014.
A snapshot from the Google Patents repository indicating the timelines of Shane Chen’s invention in 2012 prior to his patent application in 2013 and subsequent approval of his application in 2014.

Public records indicate that the inventor, Shane Chen holds rights to the hoverboard invention until February 11 2033 – about 20 years from its day of the invention.

Snapshot from Guardian's interview with Shane Chen on Hoverboard invention
Snapshot from Guardian’s interview with Shane Chen on Hoverboard invention

When were hoverboards popular?

A year after the patent was granted to Shane Chen, hoverboards were introduced in the U.S. in 2015 and they received wide acceptance in the market. While the initial models did not really hover, it was close enough to Marty McFly’s hoverboard from the film “Back to the Future”.

The popularity of the hoverboard lies in its unique design which capitalizes on pressure pads to control movement and balance while getting around.

With a growing number of climate-concious population, hoverboard presented an eco-friendly way to get around. It uses rechargeable batteries and can last for several hours on a single charge, which made it popular with commuters.

Hoverboards also became a status symbol in some social circles as they were quite expensive when they first came out. A lot of celebrities were seen using them and this increased their popularity even further.

However, the popularity of hoverboards waned somewhat in recent years due to safety concerns. In 2016, there were a number of reports of hoverboards catching fire and exploding, leading many retailers to remove them from their shelves.

There are also concerns about the long-term effects of using hoverboards. Some studies have shown that the use of hoverboards can lead to balance problems and falls, as well as neck and back pain.

Despite these concerns, hoverboards remain popular in many circles and are sure to be a staple in transportation for years to come.

Key Features of the first hoverboard by Shane Chen:

  1. Two wheels: to provide balance and allow the user to lean in the direction they want to go
  2. Self-balancing: to make it easy to use and control
  3. Platform sections: so the user can independently control each side of the board
  4. Wheel sensor and motor: to detect movement and provide power

When did the hoverboard come out?

While various literature quotes 1967 as the time hoverboard as a name was first used, hoverboard devices were not a reality until Shane Chen invented it in 2013 with the patent approval being granted in 2014. A year later, the first hoverboard was released to market as was received well.

When did Shane Chen invent the hoverboard?

Shane Chen invented the hoverboard in 2013, the same year he submitted his patent application to the US Patents Office and started a Kickstarter campaign to fund his new hoverboard business.

Did Shane Chen Make A lot of money with the invention?

In 2016, Shane Chen was interviewed by the Guardian and he disclosed how he learned of over 11,000 factories making their hoverboards without paying him royalty in China. While he was making a few thousand units, millions of knock-off hoverboards were being churned out by Chinese manufacturers.

Chen’s first Hoverboard models were selling for $1495 when they first came out but knock-off models were selling for$200 to $500.

In 2018, Chen explained to Forbes in this article here how the Intellectual Property system is broken in the US.

A snapshot of Forbes article on how US Patents System is not working well for genuine inventors such as Shane
A snapshot of a Forbes article on how the US Patents System is not working well for genuine inventors such as Shane

FAQs – short answers

When were hoverboards invented?

Hoverboards were invented in 2013 by Shane Chen.

What year did the hoverboard come out?

The first hoverboard was released to market in 2015.

How long has the hoverboard been around?

The hoverboard has been around for about 6 years.

Is the hoverboard patented?

Yes, the hoverboard is patented.

Who owns the patent for the hoverboard?

Shane Chen owns the patent for the hoverboard until 2033. Inventors are given 20 years.

What is the patent number for the hoverboard?

The patent number for the hoverboard is US8,738,278 B2.

When will the patent expire?

The patent will expire in 2033.

Are hoverboards legal?

Hoverboards are legal in most countries but there are some restrictions in place, such as a ban on using them in public spaces in the UK. In the US, there is no federal law prohibiting the use of hoverboards but some cities and States have come up with some laws that limit their use, especially in public streets or when riding public means of transportation.

Are hoverboards safe?

There have been some reports of hoverboards catching fire and exploding, leading many retailers to remove them from their shelves. There are also concerns about the long-term effects of using hoverboards. Some studies have shown that the use of hoverboards can lead to balance problems and falls, as well as neck and back pain.

Since the reported cases of hoverboards exploding in 2015, and the subsequent recall of 501,000 units by the Consumer Products Safety Commission, there haven’t been any reported cases of a lithium-ion battery explosion. The improvement in quality and design of batteries used has improved and Transport Safety Authority(TSA) has actually clarified that fliers can travel with their hoverboards as batteries in most brands meet the minimum FAA regulations on safe batteries to fly with.

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