How it works (The Technology)
The ability to balance and stay upright is one we take for granted, think of a baby trying to stand, they will hold onto something to stay balanced. The brain needs to control the leg muscles in order to stand and make minor adjustments based on the information it receives from the sensors of the body (eyes, inner ear, muscles and joints) then when the start to walk this information needs to be processed faster by the brain to keep the balance while moving and eventually running.
The Swegway board/ Segway board/ hover board whatever you want to call it works in a similar way. Just swap the legs for wheels, the muscles for a motor, the brain for microprocessors and the bodily sensors for sophisticated tilt sensors. The microprocessors detect when you lean forwards or backwards and counter balance this to keep you upright and depending on your speed it will control the wheels at just the right speed to move you forwards, backwards, turn left, right or spin. This ladies and gentlemen is known as Dynamic Stabilisation.
But if you want to drop the science terms for a moment and really appreciate what your board is doing, try standing on it with it switched off. Not that I endorse that, I have tried it myself and it’s not easy, you’ll have some fun laughing at your mates doing it, but just make sure you hold onto something as it’s almost impossible. You get transported back to that moment when you were a baby trying to stand for the first time or at least that’s what it feels like.
Back to the science – for all you techies – the main sensor is made of numerous gyroscopes assembled together to form the legs behind this wonderful piece of technology.
In essence a gyroscope is a spinning wheel which is free to rotate in any orientation along the axis of rotation.
Gyroscope – Not quite the same as the one in your Swegway board but uses the same principle
According to the conservation of angular momentum, the orientation of the axis is not affected by any tilting or rotational forces acting upon it. Not only is this smart bit of engineering used in inertial navigation systems and utilised in the Hubble telescope, intercontinental ballistic missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles and commercial ships. It’s in your Swegway/ Segway/ Hover board and your standing on it while having fun.
The type of gyroscope your board uses is a solid-state sensor, constructed of silicon and determines angular rate using the Coriolis Effect, albeit on a small scale.
This effect is in essence the apparent turning of a moving object, relative to the rotation of another object. It’s why storms are clockwise in the Southern hemisphere and anticlockwise in the Northern hemisphere.
The solid state silicon sensor is made up of a silicon plate and support frame, electrostatic current is applied across the plate from the battery causing the silicon particles to vibrate. When no bodily weight is applied, the particles vibrate in a predicable fashion. The tilting applied by your legs causes the particles to shift relative to the plate, this affects the vibration and is proportional to the degree of rotation. This information is processed by a cluster of microprocessors (the brain) which works out when your board is rotating on a certain axis.
The microprocessors operate a sophisticated piece of software which monitors in real time all the data coming from the sensors and makes adjustments to the motors to keep the board stable and move the rider in the direction of the tilt. Powering the motors are 158W Samsung batteries which are capable of moving the wheels independently at varying speeds.