Last month, we greeted 2016 with open arms, welcoming another year of advancement and technological innovation. In 2015, a 16-year-old student invented a cancer-diagnosing device costing no more than 10 fils. We saw 3D printing used to create cheaper, lighter prosthetics. Really impressive stuff. It was also the year that hoverboards took over the world and our faith in humanity completely plummeted.
Although technically not named a ‘hoverboard’, this is less of a mouthful than “self-balancing two-wheeled board” so the erroneous name has stuck. It consists of two lithium-ion battery-powered, platform-connected wheels operated by the rider’s feet. Hoverboards made a debut in China in 2014 through Kickstarter but only really reached the rest of the world last year. Since their big entrance into the mainstream, using them in public spaces have been banned throughout entire states in the US and parts of New York, Germany and England. This is largely due to the potential dangers in road traffic situations as well as some of the horrific house fires that have been sparked by charging hoverboards. As hoverboards become less of an exclusivity, adaptations to the original board have been made. For example, some hoverboards are now equipped with Bluetooth speakers, which will certainly make them even more irritating and most likely banned.
These days, it is a rare occasion to go out to a mall in Kuwait without spying a prepubescent child gliding along the shiny, smooth tiles. Even in a crowded mall, you hear the high-pitched whirring before you see this contraption zoom into view. Although they are now banned in our local shopping malls, last week I saw a boy no older than 8 years old being told off by an Avenues security guard for riding his hoverboard. He received the lecture all while maintaining his balancing act and almost bumping into the uniformed man a number of times. That lesson was definitely not learnt.
When I see a group of friends walking through Avenues together, I feel happy to see them interacting on the same level. That is, until their straggling friend whizzes around the corner, a whole head taller than his mates, precariously balancing atop what can only be described as the death of social interactions. I can’t imagine how awkward it must be to walk alongside a friend, hoping your legs can keep up with their whirring wheels. Well, actually, I don’t have to imagine anything. The number of times I’ve seen someone power walking to keep up with a friend or sibling on a hoverboard is beyond me. However, hoverboard-watching can be a refined spectator sport so make sure you have your phone at the ready to film some hilarious falling fails and upload them to YouTube.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the technology behind it is rather nifty. I just find the idea of a child zooming along to be a little bit disconcerting and – more importantly – like the beginnings of an anti-movement era. Although I don’t have enough years behind me to harp on about the ‘old days’, I do remember a time when kids would ferociously and fearlessly power along the pavements on their bicycles, spending as much time outside before they were finally called back home. It was a time when children would play together with toys they could share.
My advice for anyone waiting for this exhausting fad to disappear is to keep to the uneven ground until they are banned from planet Earth.