Shane Chen reminds me of everyone’s favorite uncle who always has a bunch of “great ideas” for things that should exist, only instead of forgetting about them after he sobers up, Shane actually builds them and is apparently doing quite well for himself.
Hell yes. That looks sweet and fun as fuck.
If you’re like me, you’re annoyed with the lack of decent transportation options available for humanity. Trains are ugly and slow, cars cause global warming and kill thousands in accidents every year, bicycles are for nerds, boats are for rich nerds. Walking? Ugh, go back to the year 8 million BC, when that shit was invented, lame-o-zoid. Swimming? I SAID GO BACK TO THE YEAR 8 MILLION!
Fortunately, there are good people working to spice up the art of getting from one place to a totally different place. People like Shane Chen, the founder, president, and brain trust of Inventist, a company that, according to its website, is devoted to “developing sports-related products that are genuinely new, fun to use, and which contribute to people’s fitness at the same time.” Products like, for instance, the AquaSkipper, a totally cool and not at all unfashionable way to exercise, bouncing on top of the water on a thing that’s sort of like a bike, but not really.
An agricultural-research product developer turned professional inventor, Shane reminds me of everyone’s favorite uncle who always has a bunch of “great ideas” for things that should exist, only instead of forgetting about them after he sobers up, Shane actually builds them and is apparently doing quite well for himself—the AquaSkipper was, the website tells me, “one of the History Channel’s InventNow competition,” which sounds mighty impressive. So I called him up to talk about some of his cool inventions.
VICE: OK, let’s get right into it. What’s the deal with the Solowheel?
Shane Chen: The Solowheel has only one wheel, but the electronic system and automatic balancing never allow you to fall. Lots of people use it for practical purposes, like just going to work, or doing other things. It’s best to park your car one place and ride your Solowheel around. It’s really convenient; you can carry it into a store. It’s like a briefcase.
It looks kind of heavy.
It’s 24 pounds, so if you carry it around too long, it’s heavy, but not when you ride it. You only carry it when you go into store and go upstairs, you know. It’s still much lighter than any eBike. It’s the simplest mode of transportation.
Was the Solowheel your first invention?
Before that, I made the Body Toner.
Then there are some kitchen gadgets [like the Fizzsaver].
Then later on I came up with the AquaSkipper. I started thinking about the flapping-wing airplane, and figuring out how to test it. Then I was thinking, I need to do something that I can actually use, so that’s why I thought, What if I make the same concept, but in the water? Water is 20 times denser than air, so the wing can be 20 times smaller. So you hop up and down, you see the entire wing go up and down, a flapping wing in the water. It’s very simple, there’s nothing in it, just a front wing and a back wing—if you jump on it, it will move.
Any other cool inventions?
I don’t know if you’ve seen the Swerver Skates, the four-wheeled skates. When you lean, the wheel will lean with you, it’s kind of like a parallelogram, but it turns automatically. There’s no mechanism inside to do that, so when you’re leaning, they automatically go to different positions that will make you turn.
What’s your favorite one?
I personally think that Orbitwheel is my best invention. It’s two wheels, one on each foot. That concept, to me, it’s very unique because they are hollow wheels actually orbiting around your foot. You can ride it just like a skateboard, except it’s a bigger wheel. You can roll over different kinds of surfaces. You just put your foot in it, and it’ll work.
Being an inventor seems like a pretty cool job. The stuff that Inventist puts out is just stuff you’re interested in?
Right, basically, it’s kind of daily life: your mind has an idea, you make it, prototype it, test it, and if it’s not working, then you figure out what to do with it. If it works, we either sell it or we make it ourselves.
Keep up the good work.