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All I Want for Christmas…

Most years, as we enter the height of the holiday gift-giving season, I take a look around to see what’s interesting when it comes to tech-toys for kids (which I posted on a couple of weeks back). And, of course, what’s interesting when it comes to tech-toys for grownups. Because if there’s one thing most techies like, no matter what their age, it’s a tech toy.

But this year, there’s one tech toy that stands out, that hovers over the tech toy landscape. And that’s the XTurismo.

So all I can say is, all I want for Christmas is a flying bike.

A flying bike…

Sure, when I was a kid, I dreamed about flying around my neighborhood powered by nothing more than my Superman cape. But hopping on my flying bike was right up there, as well.

How fun it would have been to fly over the houses and backyards of all my friends, the park where we played ball, the schoolyard, our church, the grocery store, McDonald’s. There was something about it that always captured my imagination.

The XTURISMO, which is produced by Aerwins Technology, a Japanese company, was introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in September – in plenty of time for the holidays. Admittedly, it’s hovering more than it is flying, and is pretty much billed as a hoverbike. But I’m not going to split hairs here. To me, it’s a flying bike, and it’s the stuff of dreams:

While the hoverbike’s center indeed looks like a street bike, it’s surrounded by large fans, lending the vehicle the overall appearance of a massive, rideable drone. The 300-kilogram (661-pound) hoverbike is powered by both an internal combustion engine and a battery, which together lend XTURISMO its 40-kilometer (24.8-mile) cruising range. XTURISMO can zip around at speeds up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) per hour while carrying payloads (AKA drivers) up to 100 kilograms, or 220 pounds. (Source: Extreme Tech)

The XTURISMO is loaded with plenty of tech:

Riders are kept safe with its 3D control systems, air-route designs, mapping controls, and added sensors to detect any hurdles in the air. Using its dedicated app, riders are also afforded a virtual dashboard and localization, so that they are always informed on the flying motorcycle’s health and position. (Source: Design Boom)

There are a couple of downsides. The XTURISMO is apparently as noisy as a leaf-blower. And then there’s the price tag. It’s available for – gulp! – $777,000. Aerwins is anticipating that there’ll be a scaled down all-electric version available in the U.S. for $50K in a few years time.

There’s also the issue of whether the XTURISMO is considered an aircraft or not. In Japan, it’s not considered a flying machine, and there’s no special license required. You just hop on your XTURISMO and take off. It’s considered the same as riding a bicycle. This isn’t likely to be the case in the States in the long run.

Even in Japan, even if the price point were more accessible, it’s not as if the friendly skies are going to be crowded with hover bikers. While there are no special licensing requirements, riders can only fly over racetracks. (By the way, Aerwins are only planning on making 200 XTURISMOs, so this will definitely be a very limited, very luxury, very niche item.)

When it comes to flying bikes, the XTURISMO isn’t the only game in town.

While it hasn’t gotten the press and hype that the XTURISMO got from its announcement at the Detroit Auto Show, there’s a fellow in Newton Falls, Ohio, who claims to have invented the first ever electric flying bike. The Flypod E-Bike which, at $15-17K, is lightweight and a bit more affordable than the XTURISMO. Somewhat scarily, you don’t need a driver’s or a pilot’s license and there’s no age limit. So a kid – me at the age of 11, I guess – can flypod their way to happiness.

Here’s what the inventor has to say:

“There is nothing like that feeling when you break free from the ground,” says Kurt Fister. “You feel yourself leaving Earth and it’s the most incredible feeling of freedom you could ever have…My youngest student is 11, my oldest is 92,” Fister said. “With this aircraft because of its weight, size and it’s so small, they can now have the dream of flight for the cost of a motorcycle and they can experience it despite anything that might be an FAA handicap.” (Source: WFMJ)

The Flypod E-Bike is really closer to my childhood conception of a flying bike. It only requires a “runway” of 30-40 feet, and can land on less than that. So it’ll work out of the backyard.  I don’t know about what built-in safety controls it has in place. At its price point, I don’t imagine it’s as teched up as the XTURISMO. (You do get what you pay for.)

I guess my bottom line is that, even if my three kids chip in for a consolidated gift for dad, I don’t expect to see an XTURISMO or a Flypod E-Bike under my tree.

Which is too bad, because, when I think about it, all I want for Christmas is a flying bike.