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Chariots of Fire

Bill Coffin | January 21, 2016

Not since the Segway has a personal transportation device garnered as much interest as the hoverboard, a two-wheeled, self-balancing electronic skateboard. Viral videos of the devices—also called smart boards or balance boards—took the internet by storm and, by last December, hoverboards were the must-have present of the holiday season.

The hoverboard craze is about a product category, rather than a particular company or brand. There was no one maker of hoverboards; various unknown companies all produced essentially the same product but with different names, different packaging, and from different factories—some of which had quickly retooled to take advantage of the sudden demand for electronic gizmos that could fetch a few hundred dollars at retail.

Before long, though,...

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