Unlike previous salvos in this general trajectory – the Segway, for instance – Onewheel is principally designed to appeal to boardsport fans: skateboarders, snowboarders and surfers. It's the kind of ride that requires and rewards skill.
"No one really talks about being a good Segway rider," Doerksen said with a laugh. "It feels more at home in the sport world than a lot of these other motorized things."
Headquartered in in the sleepy California college town of Santa Cruz, Future Motion is the officially incorporated result of Doerksen's two lifelong passions – boardsports and engineering. Growing up in the Canadian Rockies, he spent the bulk of his childhood discretionary time snowboarding, before moving on to Stanford and earning multiple degrees in engineering.
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The inspiration for the Onewheel came one day as Doerksen was walking through downtown San Francisco circa 2008, while working for the marquee design firm IDEO.
"I was just daydreaming about ways to get around faster, and thinking about snowboarding," he said. "Specifically, snowboarding on powder. The feeling of snowboarding on powder is incredibly smooth, incredibly quiet and very forgiving. You're not worried about catching an edge. Unlike skiing, snowboarding actually gets easier on powder."
Doerksen began tinkering with a design that would bring the smooth sensation of snowboarding to the streets. Working in his garage, that sacred space of California mythmaking, Doerksen began exploring the motion-sensor technology just then emerging in smart phones and gaming consoles like the Nintendo Wii. But in 2008, all those gyros and accelerometers were overpriced – and the batteries he needed were underpowered.
"I actually put it back on the shelf. I needed to wait a little bit for the technology to catch up."
A couple years later, Doerksen returned to his part-time obsession, found that lithium ion batteries had improved tremendously, and came up with the idea of putting the engine in the wheel itself. By using a hub motor, he could power the wheel directly while reducing noise and vibration. "That was the turning point," Doerksen said. "No gears, no drive train, no belts, no chains."