Segway, known as "It" or "Ginger" and announced officially on December 2, 2001, is a a two-wheeled platform scooter of sorts invented by Dean Kamen. The base is fitted with two tubeless tires meant to be used for either indoor or outdoor use. The unit operates by sensing minute balance shifts by the rider; leaning forward causes Segway to move forward, leaning backwards goes in reverse, and standing upright stops. It is supposed to be damn near impossible to fall over while riding.

The device has some massively redundant components, having two sisterboards that can each control solo should the other fail, and two motors with the same capability. Five gyros all sense balance and control the motors accordingly. The whole affair is tested to hold about 325 lbs, but the chassis can withstand 7 tons of force.

It is designed to take over for cars and public transport for short trips, such as to the grocery store. It doesn't use gas; it is powered by internal batteries, and it can supposedly run for an entire day on a nickel's worth of electricity. While it may sound an appealing alternative for daily routines, the $3000 price tag will most likely keep it out of reach of the average Joe.

From http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,186660,00.html

Formerly know as It and by the code name Ginger. The invention that claims it will "change the world" and be bigger than the Internet. Here's some excerpts of what the New York Times is saying:

"It is not a hovercraft, a helicopter backpack or a teleportation pod."

"The mystery transportation device being developed by the award winning inventor Dean Kamen - the subject of continuous speculation since provocative clues and predictions surfaced in media reports last January - is not hydrogen powered, a favored theory in Internet discussions. Nor does it run on a superefficient Stirling engine- yet."

"Mr. Kamen plans to demonstrate today a two-wheeled battery powered device designed for a single standing rider. Its chief novelty lies in the uncanny effect, produced by a finely tuned gyroscope balancing system, of intuiting where its rider wants to go -and going there."

"The device, the Segway Human Transporter, better known by its former code name - Ginger, can go up to 12 miles an hour and has no brakes. Its speed and direction are controlled solely by the rider's shifting weight and a manual turning mechanism on one of the handlebars."

"Tilt sensors monitor the rider's center of gravity more than 100 times a second, signaling to the electric motor and wheels which way to turn and how fast."

"The United States Postal Service, the National Park Service, and the city of Atlanta plan to begin limited tests of the devices early next year. Amazon.com and several companies that make parts for the Segway, including GE Plastics and Michelin North America, plan to use the devices to try and save money by reducing the time it takes employees to move around corporate campuses and large warehouses."

"At an average speed of 8 miles an hour, or three time walking pace, Mr. Kamen says the Segway can go 15 miles on a six hour charge, for less than a dimes worth of electricity from a standard wall socket."

The Times further states...

"The Segway is meant to be ridden on sidewalks, and many municipalities ban motorized devices on sidewalks. The machines weigh 65 pounds, and although they may be able to zip in and out of elevators and offices, going up and down stairs is a different matter. The device can be put in "follow mode", which helps propel it up and down, but there is still lifting to be done. Each one comes with a computer encoded on-off key protected by 64-bit software encryption to deter thieves or joyriders. But locking the machine to a parking meter or lamppost is far more awkward than doing the same thing with a bicycle."

Update:

It should be noted that as of April 2013 the Segway never really caught on and from the looks of it, it never will. In a bit of gallows humor, Jimi Heselden, the multi-millionaire owner of the Segway company, died when one of them he was riding plunged off an 80 foot cliff.

That's not what I would call a huge selling point.

I believe that the Segway Personal Transporter is an amazing invention. It perfectly bridges the gap between the monotony of walking and the adrenaline rush of skateboarding. It allows people to stand still while they are moving.

But in its strength lies its weakness. People that ride Segways miss out on the exercise that is enjoyed by the people who are still walking. What can be done to correct this deficiency?

I suggest that the best solution to this problem is to integrate a treadmill into the Segway Personal Transporter. To that end, I began tinkering last week with a prototype.

I started with a Bowflex Treadclimber TC1000 because the actual tread portion of the device is separated into left and right halves (one for each foot) and each half is only 6 inches wide by 24 inches long. After installing some bracketing and extra support struts, the sizing was a perfect fit for my Segway.

The actual build went amazingly well but I ran into some unexpected performance issues the first time I test drove it.

Because the servos and gyros that constitute the control system of the Segway are so finely tuned, I experienced severe and increasing stability problems. Every time I raised my foot on the Treadclimber, the Segway would lurch in the opposite direction. To correct for the sudden lurch, I would instinctively grab on to the Segway's handle and drop the foot I had just raised. This would cause an even greater lurch to the other side. At one point the buffeting was so bad that I cracked a rib and had to seek medical attention.

Through endless hours of experimentation and trial and error, I eventually overcame these technical hurdles.

I now have the best of both worlds. I have a Segway that allows me to relax as I navigate the sidewalks of my life and I have a treadmill to keep me in shape as I ride my Segway.

Life is good.

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