Don’t call Radical Moov a “hoverboard.”
Yes, it’s a personal mobility device, and, yes, you stand on it. And OK, sure it also auto-balances while you ride by shifting your body weight.
But it’s not another hoverboard. It’s an “electric sports rideable.”
Former aerospace engineer and Radical Transport co-founder Nick Fragnito, who brought a Moov prototype to my office this week days before the launch of their Kickstarter campaign wanted to make that point crystal clear.
“We obviously don’t like that term… We do not see ourselves as part of that market,” he said. The company is marketing Moov with the hashtag: #unhoverboard.
It’s true, there are significant differences between the Moov and the market that went up in flames over a year ago.
Virtually every hoverboard sold in the U.S. in in 2015 and 2016 was manufactured in China and was usually constructed from variations of the same parts and molds.
Moov, Fragnito told me, is, with the exceptions on the motors and battery packs, designed and made in the U.S.A.
It also looks different than those other boards. The 26-inch wide Moov features a solid, aluminum frame (the base panel is plastic). Hoverboards like the Swagtron T3 are split down the middle. On those devices, you steer by tipping one foot or the other forward and back. The Moov, which has sensors under its rubber floor mat, relies on sensing how you shift your weight. It’s no less intuitive, but takes getting used to if you’re accustomed to riding an old-school overboard.
The wheels are also wider (3 inches thick) and larger (9 inches in diameter), which provides greater stability. You’ll need that because the Moov is designed to go faster up to 15 mph and do sport tricks.
Those big, flat wheels help keep everything on the ground. Right now, the company has roughly 20 prototypes and is ready to start mold-building for production units. They still must get that all-important UL certification, which mainly impacts power adapters and the batteries. The Moov uses Panasonic cells, which Fragnito’s team have built into custom battery packs that sit adjacent to each wheel.
The Moov’s origin story is an unusual one. It all started, according to Fragnito in the mind of billionaire entrepreneur and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban.
Cuban got interested in personal transportation way back in 2012 and even tried to buy the Hovertrax from hoverboard inventor Shane Chen.
That didn’t work out, but by then Cuban had already formed a new company, Radical Moov and hand-picked Fragnito, a trained engineer, and Co-Founder and Engineer EJ Williams to run it.
Cuban sent Fragnito to China to learn how they were building hoverboards. By 2015, the team was committed to building their own new kind of rideable.
Moov “is one of the first, if not the first, [hardware] products Cuban’s made,” said Fragnito. However, Cuban is now mostly a silent partner, offering funding and mentoring.
In the meantime, Moov’s development continued over the next two years right through the Hoverboard battery debacles and fires. I asked Fragnito if he wished Moov had come to market sooner. He nodded solemnly.
Radical Transport is not, for instance, marketing to children and tweens.
I contacted Cuban, via email, to find out why he thinks Moov can revive this market.
“It’s fun. It looks amazing. It’s durable. It’s powerful. It can be transportation or sport. It works,” he told me.
Cuban is also trying to level-set expectations. “We don’t have to sell millions of them to make this a great business,” he said.
Fragnito thinks a premium product that feels and works differently can make some noise in the market that’s still managed to survive despite the hoverboard calamity: Rideables.
Radical Transport is not, for instance, marketing to children and tweens. Fragnito said the median age for a Moov rider is 18-34.
It will certainly have a premium price. When Moov’s Kickstarter campaign launches on Tuesday, the Radical Moov will list for $1,099 and could ultimately cost $1,499 in retail. That may be a tough sell when you consider that the equally premium Ninebot Segway Mini sells for as low as $599 on Amazon.
As for the prototype I rode, it’s an impressive hover… er, rideable. It’s whisper-quiet and very responsive. There are lights that indicate direction and can be customized via the app. At 24 pounds, Moov is not light, but the centered handle slot perfectly balances the weight on either side of your hand.
There’s a single power button and getting on is almost just like riding a hoverboard. However, with the Moov, you place one foot on one side and press down until you feel the board respond and start auto-balancing. Once that happens, it’s safe to step on with the other foot (you also get off by stepping back with one foot and then the other very hoverboard-like).
I quickly got the hang of riding and then Fragnito, the expert, showed me some sharper moves.
As he picked up the Moov to leave, Fragnito told me that you can also stand it on one wheel, and use the app to make it spin run its LEDs like disco lights. It’s a Moov party.
Now let’s see if they can start a new rideable Moov-ment.