2003 Segway HT
Appropriately at the turn of the new millennium the media were in a frenzy of speculation as to the nature of a revolutionary, high tech, futuristic new product that was about to come on the market. Code named "Ginger", it would revolutionize personal transportation. Would it be a jet pack? A hoverboard?
Dean Kamen introduced his invention in December 2001- the Segway HT, for Human Transport. It is a sophisticated two-wheeled, battery-powered scooter that uses gyroscopes and tilt sensors combined with motors to provide motion in all directions, the entire device controlled simply by body movements.
In actual use, it works extremely well, with a remarkable unity between man and machine. There is not a sense of "driving" a machine, as much as merely "thinking" what it is to do, and it responds instantly and smoothly. There is a mandatory instruction course that must be taken on purchase, and the personal electronic key sets the machine up in one of three "performance profile" settings. One leans slightly forward to go, and backwards to stop. Sensors in the platform detect minute changes in angle and pitch, and motors in each wheel speed up or slow down to maintain balance and steer.
Since its introduction, the Segway has in some eyes fallen short of expectations, and has been criticized and become the butt of jokes, much like that other supposed revolutionary means of transport- the electric Sinclair C5 of twenty years ago.
But a large group of supporters insist that it will indeed fulfill its initial promise, and a world wide support network has been formed. Its success will depend on how it fits into the real world, however, as cities determine the regulations governing its use on public sidewalks. San Francisco, that most liberated and environmentally aware of cities, has become the first to ban the device from its streets.
Manufacturer: Segway LLC, Manchester, NH U.S.A