Chaotic Moon Labs Board of Awesomeness: your hand is the throttle on this Kinect-controlled skateboard


Chaotic Moon's Board of Awesomeness is one of the craziest things we've seen here at CES 2012. And by crazy, we mean awesome. The frankenstein creation was built in just two weeks and is composed of a longboard with a set of gigantic rugged wheels, electric motor, batteries, Kinect, and Windows 8 tablet.

The Board of Awesomeness is single-wheel drive and powered by an 800 watt motor and 36 volt battery, which give the board a top speed of 32 MPH. Although these specs might be interesting to some, we think the wildest thing here is how the Board of Awesomeness works. Unlike traditionally riding a skateboard by pumping with one foot, this board uses your hand as a virtual gas pedal. Using the standard Kinect SDK and custom software running on the Windows 8 tablet, the Kinect tracks where your hand is in physical space. The tablet on the base of the board shows a live feed of what the Kinect sees, and also displays the "hitbox," which is similar to the strikezone in baseball. When the Kinect detects your hand inside the hitbox, the board begins to accelerate. Simply move your hand toward the Kinect to accelerate and pull it away to decelerate. For safety, there's a small metal kill-switch that sits on the top of the board. Like a dead man's switch, if you don't maintain constant pressure on it, the power will be disabled and the board will stop. Oh and by the way, there's no brakes. Surprisingly, no Kinect software hacks are used in this setup, though admittedly, the Kinect's power cord was stripped to attach it to the battery.

I've been skateboarding on and off for around eight years and I'll admit — knowing how to skateboard doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to handle the Board of Awesomeness. Riding it requires a ton of balance and concentration, and you need to be focused on a few things at all times: leaning forward, keeping your foot down on the kill-switch and making sure your hand remains very steady when it's in the hitbox. All three things work in concert together. For example, when I wasn't leaning forward, the torque threw me off balance, causing my foot to come off the kill-switch and my hand to move, which caused the board to not move at all. However, I started to get the hang of it after a few runs on the slowest setting, and was on the highest speed setting in no time.

Driving the Board of Awesomeness felt, well, awesome. Riding a normal skateboard consists of pumping to gain speed and then repositioning your body to cruise. The Board of Awesomeness requires no pumping, and is centered on concentrating on keeping your hand steady while maintaining proper form. Having some prior skateboarding experience definitely helped, but it had a learning curve.

Chaotic Moon told us that consumer response here at CES was fantastic and said that it plans to open source the software and schematics once they're finalized so that anyone can build a Board of Awesomeness on their own. Version two of the board is already in the works. The rep said that the kill-switch in next rendition will utilize magnets instead of pressure, the board will be two-wheel drive, and it will go twice as fast. We're really looking forward to seeing what the company does in the next model, considering it built version one in just two weeks.

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