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Hoverboards

We've been waiting for them to hit the shelves ever since Marty McFly brought them to our attention in the 80s - Hoverboards are finally here, albeit not quite as advertised. For one thing, they have wheels, so prepare to suspend your disbelief. There's also some disappointing news for those of you with designs on weaving through pedestrians en route to the local corner-shop, because Britain has swiftly banned their use in public places (anyone caught in the act could be subject to an on-the-spot £75 fine).

So, are they worth the hype? There is no denying that a hoverboard - however far removed from the science fiction - represents a very cool piece of kit. Fitted with two platforms - one for each foot - the self-balancing scooter (to give it its more accurate if less exciting name) is operated by ingenious gyroscopic sensors, which keep the rider upright as they shift their weight to direct the wheels beneath. Performance varies from model to model but most are generally capable of hitting speeds of around 12 to 16 kilometres an hour (7.5 to 10 mph).

The hoverboard is an innovation conceived in the spirit of fun rather than function. In truth, there are few (if any) practical applications - especially since it has been given its marching orders from Britain's streets (though perhaps you will draw inspiration from the many viral videos of users going about mundane household chores astride the device). Unless you live in a particularly large complex un-navigable by foot, its main function - for adults at least - is as a novelty plaything to bust out at parties (but be advised that riding under the influence is probably not the best idea).

If you're thinking about getting one to keep the kids occupied, you will need a fairly sizeable garden (or at least a comparably open indoor space) to truly maximise its potential; there are only so many times you can weave around the dining table before it becomes a little boring. Some careful supervision is also probably a good idea - at least while they get to grips with the balancing mechanism - but don't be put off by the fact that they've been banned in public; in reality they are no more intrinsically dangerous than a skateboard or a pair of roller-blades.

In terms of cost, the eye-watering prices you've seen bandied about online likely pertain to the very top-of-the-line models made popular by A-list celebrities on Instagram. The truth is all hoverboard manufacturers tend to use the same base prototype, even if some accord their products a slightly more glamorous branding campaign. The popular MonoRover R2, which boasts a 4-mile range and a mere 90-minute charge time, is available for around £400 - and if you're really looking to save, then the ostensibly basic Q3 model can be purchased for roughly half that (though you will probably need to order it in from China, so expect a lengthy delivery time).

Verdict

If your grand-kids already have the latest video game console, then the self-balancing scooter (it's probably best to pitch it to them as a hoverboard) is undoubtedly a neat Christmas present. It's fun, simple to use, and surprisingly durable; just make sure you've consulted the parents before buying one, because - as mentioned above - they will probably need to set aside a bit of time to supervise in the beginning.

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