Adrenaline Rush

Six high-tech toys you can ride -- but probably shouldn't.

by Stan Musilek

What makes a fuel cell bike? Just drop hydrogen on the top tube (yellow canister) and hook it up to the "stack," or energy generator, mounted on the front of the frame (black canister).Stan Musilek

It used to be the stuff of comic books: jet-powered surfboards, personalflying devices, boots that leap tall buildings in a single bound. Now technology is turning those fantasies into reality. Just visible on the horizon -- Is it a bird? A plane? -- are some exciting high-tech travel toys that will move you into the future, fast.

Many of these creations, such as the fuel-cell-powered bicycle on this page, are offshoots of traditional research. Automakers have been researching fuel cells for years because they are superclean, turning hydrogen into power and leaving only water behind. But fuel cell cars won't be out until at least 2004; the bike will let you sample the technology sooner.

Another item that's literally popping out of industrial labs is Festo's Airhopper sport shoe. This German manufacturer usually creates devices that only an engineer could love -- pneumatic tubes and other components for assembly lines. But someone forgot to give the design department their medication, and out came a shoe that'll make you bounce like a superhero.

As far as we know, adrenaline addiction doesn't cause brain damage -- but the creators of some of these high-risk inventions are warped, nonetheless. Bolting a jet-ski engine onto the back of a surfboard, for instance, seems more than a little insane. For those who prefer safer diversions, a virtual reality glove will let you escape in the comfort of your own living room.

One way or another, there's no need to wait for the introduction of inventor Dean Kamen's top-secret IT project. By the time that's unveiled, you could be jetting to work in a strap-on helicopter. Whatever the future holds, getting there promises to be much more than half the fun.

FUEL CELL BIKE

The Inspiration

E.T.'s bike didn't just haul, it flew.

How Fast Does It Go?

By turning hydrogen into power (and water), Aprilia's fuel cell bike can go up to 20 mph -- with no help from you.

Why You Want It

Ever use a mountain bike to climb a mountain? Well, now you might.

On Second Thought

Hydrogen has an unpleasant tendency to explode.

The Nitty Gritty

About $2,000, available in 2003. http://www.apriliausa.com

Closest Thing You Can Afford

Zap's $450 Powerbike cheats with a battery. http://www.zapworld.com

STRAP-ON HELICOPTER

The Inspiration

Inspector Gadget's copter popped from his hat. This one's more stable.

How Fast Does It Go?

The SoloTrek XFV Helicopter has a two-stroke engine and two monster turbines. That and a death wish should get you to 80 mph.

Why You Want It

To see the look on people's faces when you land next to their 747.

On Second Thought

If the engine fails, you'd better pray you're flying over a mattress factory.

The Nitty Gritty

Start saving: This will run you around $100,000, if it ever makes it into production (it's in wind-tunnel testing now). http://www.solotrek.com

Closest Thing You Can Afford

Falcon's $3,000 hang glider. http://www.willswing.com

FLYING BOAT

The Inspiration

Mad Max meets Waterworld; aging megastars not included.

How Fast Does It Go?

Up to 80 mph, and about the only thing left in the water is the OutRider Flying Boat's rotary-driven propeller, slicing drag and smoothing the ride.

Why You Want It

Forget about walking on water; now you can sprint.

On Second Thought

Pop a wave's bad side and the stock market will seem stable by comparison.

The Nitty Gritty

$59,500, available in February 2002. http://www.klemflyingboats.com

Closest Thing You Can Afford

Yamaha's $7,400 wingless WaveRunner GP800R hits an adrenaline-pumping 60 mph. http://www.yamaha.com

VIRTUAL REALITY GLOVE

The Inspiration

Unlike Edward Scissorhands, you'll still be able to wear contact lenses.

How Fast Does It Go?

Sensors on the Essential Reality P5 Controller enable you to accomplish onscreen actions, like turning a doorknob, with the flick of a wrist.

Why You Want It Computers

will respond to your every command; when will they make one for spouses?

On Second Thought

Another player may misinterpret your nose-scratching as a come-on.

The Nitty Gritty

$129, available now. http://www.essentialreality.com

Closest Thing You Can Afford

Microsoft's $49 Freestyle Pro gamepad uses joystick lean to move you around onscreen. http://www.microsoft.com

POWER BOOTS

The Inspiration

The Absent-Minded Professor's flubber gave hope to MJ wannabes everywhere.

How Fast Does It Go?

The pneumatic tube on the back of the Airhopper Sport Shoe contracts like a muscle, sending you sky-high -- or at least a few feet.

Why You Want It

Wearing these, white men won't just jump, they'll dunk.

On Second Thought

One false step, and you're taking it to the hospital, not the hole.

The Nitty Gritty

Sorry, these are still very much a prototype. http://www.festo.com

Closest Thing You Can Afford

Nike's $150 Shox give you bounce in a tidier package. http://www.nike.com

MOTORIZED SURFBOARD

The Inspiration

Recently recovered from the vaults: Gidget Goes to NASA.

How Fast Does It Go?

Dude! PowerSki's 45-mph Jetboard has a built-in jet-ski engine in the back.

Why You Want It

You'll be the only guy between Bakersfield and Boca Raton who knows how to surf.

On Second Thought

Try standing on a floating board that's being pulled out from under you.

The Nitty Gritty

$6,000, available in June 2002. http://www.powerski.com

Closest Thing You Can Afford

Rusty's $500 Thruster surfboard does the trick. http://www.rusty.com