A video making the rounds on Facebook today appears to show a man circling the Kaaba in Mecca on a hoverboard — or a "hands-free Segway," as many would like to call it.
The act of moving around the Kaaba, called Tawaf, is a ritual that's part of the Hajj — a pilgrimage to Mecca that is one of the five pillars of Islam — and its truncated version, the Umrah.
I poked fun at these "hoverboards" last week. And for good reason. Many people riding them do so with a completely unmerited sense of superiority that's deserving of the "DoucheScoot" nickname that placed third in our "If This Isn't a Hoverboard, Then What Is It?" poll last week.
But there's another side to these hoverboards that's quickly becoming apparent: They're less bulky and embarrassing versions of the Segway, and may be incredibly useful for people with trouble walking. My colleague Johana Bhuiyan, who spotted this video, said the gizmo would be perfect for her father, who has trouble walking and needs a wheelchair after his first few rotations around the Kaaba. A commenter on another hoverboard story last week expressed similar feelings: "I have issues walking long distance and I think it would be great," she said. "I might actually be able to go to Disney and not be broken in an hour."
We don't know much about the man in the video (I've reached out to the person who posted it and am awaiting a response) but watching him circle is intriguing for a few reasons. First, it demonstrates hoverboards' abilities to open up new avenues of movement to people who are limited in that regard. Second, it shows the boards' global appeal. If they're being used to circle the Kaaba in Mecca, they'll likely soon start showing up in all sorts of unexpected situations around the world. Get ready.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at email@example.com.
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