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IO Hawk is the Segway’s Spiritual Descendent

Rafe Needleman
·Editorial Director, Yahoo Tech

At the end of a rather predictable parade of early-stage startups at a CES event, a tall man appeared to glide down the aisle to the stage to show off his startup. He was John Soibatian, and under his feet was his company’s invention, the IO Hawk.

(Photo: Rafe Needleman)

Part sideways skateboard, part downsized Segway, the IO Hawk is a small, light, battery-powered, two-wheeled plank. You stand on it and just lean to go forward, backward, and to turn.

Soibatian told me it takes “three to five minutes” to learn to ride it. I tried it for somewhat less than that and I believe him. After a few seconds of wobbling back and forth on the board, with my arms on Soibatian’s shoulder for support, I began to get the hang of it. “Think about turning left,” he said. I did, and the board slowly rotated to the left. “Imagine you’re walking forward,” he said. Again, it worked.

After maybe a minute or two, I was mostly in control of the board. It’s inconceivable to me that I would not be comfortable on it within 15 or 30 minutes, with mastery not far behind.

The IO Hawk is not a mind-controlled device. Your feet rest on very sensitive sensors, and as you shift your weight, the device responds. I was riding Soibatian’s board, and he told me it was turned up to high sensitivity since he’s (obviously) an experienced rider. Newbies can use it in a less twitchy setting.

(Photo: Rafe Needleman)

Like the Segway, the IO Hawk is self-balancing. Unlike the Segway, there’s no dorky handle sticking up, and the wheels are much smaller, so it takes up a lot less room and weighs less, too (it’s 22 pounds).

We’re told the IO Hawk can go from 10 to 12 miles on a charge. At the moment, advance orders are $1,800 (it’s not available yet), but over time the company hopes to bring the price down.

A person riding on the IO Hawk looks regal. You get about six inches of lift from the device, and you end up moving silently and smoothly. If you’re not looking at the rider’s feet, all you see is a tall person gliding.

This is an amazing device.

(Photo: IO Hawk)

Rafe Needleman can be reached at rafeneedleman@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @rafe​.