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Solowheel is for People Who Think a Segway is Boring (Video) 94

Posted by timothy
from the merrily-we-roll-along dept.
Shane Chen is an inventor who likes to make all kinds of things. For instance, he designed the frame and invented a special reflective surface for the screen you see in the background of the video below. But many of his inventions have to do with transportation, especially the kind of transportation that doubles as personal thrill ride, like a sail for paddleboats and an electric surfboard. At this year's CES, I spoke with Chen's daughter Ywanne about his latest rideable invention, which is for obvious reasons called the Solowheel. Her father's the one you can see demonstrating the device in the background; you can see trickier riding in this YouTube video. She says that of all her father's inventions, this is the one that came together most easily: his first stab at a powered unicycle just worked, and since then it's been polishing the experience and getting it to market. And "to market" isn't a dream; for about $1800, you can have an experience that's a bit more intense than a Segway. The Solowheel can climb hills of surprising steepness, as long as the rider is up for it. Coming down looks more challenging, though.

Timothy Lord: I met up at CES with Ywanne Chen. You might catch a glimpse of her riding around in the background over there. She is here at CES with her father Shane Chen who is the inventor of the device she is riding called the Solowheel. It is a unicycle powered by a battery that can go up to 10 miles. It costs about $1800. There is a new version coming out this year that’s going to cost twice as much, but it has got twice as many wheels. Still basically a unicycle, they are just side by side. She says it can go up a hill as steep as 35 degrees, and then survives just fine in the wet climate of Washington State. Ywanne, we are here at the Inventist booth, and what are we looking at?

Ywanne Chen: We are looking at a Solowheel, which is an automatically balancing electric unicycle. It has gyro sensors in it that it uses to keep itself balanced. So there are three gyro sensors: one to detect roll, one to detect yaw and one for pitch. The one for pitch can tell when it’s leaning forward or backward and that is how it stays upright. It is also how you control it by leaning forward to go faster, lean back to stop or slow down. The other two detect side to side leaning and turning and those are used for the fine tune adjustments that we’ve developed to help you turn.

Timothy: What can you tell me about the history of this product?

Ywanne: Well, my dad, who is the inventor, set out to make the simplest, most minimalistic possible motorized vehicle that you can think of. And so for that he thought; well, all you need is one wheel, no seat, no handlebar, no buttons or switches, so that was the idea.

And he says that it was – okay, he is kind of a serial inventor -- you know, he’s always thinking of things and he says that it was one of his quickest inventions ever to develop. The first one worked and after that it was just tweaking and then it was ready to go.

Timothy: Wow! So how hard is it to ride?

Ywanne: It usually takes about half an hour of practice, _____ kind of like riding a bicycle, it starts out really strange and weird, and then it ends up so easy.

Timothy: It is powered by an internal battery, how much distance does that give you to ride around?

Ywanne: Yeah. It is powered by lithium ion battery. And one charge will go 10 miles, and then it takes an hour to recharge. _______________

Timothy: Okay. So can you ride this on hills?

Ywanne: You can. The motor is very powerful, so it is very good on hills. The steepest hill I tried was actually quite steep for testing purposes and that was I think 35 degrees.

Timothy: Going up a hill, I can understand, how about going down?

Ywanne: Well, when you are on hills, you are supposed to stand the same way you stand when you are walking. So when you walk uphill, you lean forward more; when you walk downhill, you lean backward more and it is really a natural thing. As long as you just keep using your natural sense of balance, it is pretty much not a big deal.

Timothy: Now how much does a unit weigh if you wanted to walk it into your apartment?

Ywanne: It is 25 pounds. So it is light enough that you can go up the stairs, take it into a building, put it into a car, that kind of thing.

Timothy: Now where are these in use now?

Ywanne: People have been buying them for transportation because, believe it not, it gets so easy that you can carry bags, you can pull luggage and they just ride it to work. Of course some people get it for fun too. It’s a lot of fun.

Timothy: Are these available all over the world?

Ywanne: They are. We have been selling them direct from our website, solowheel.com. There are also some distributors in other countries.

Timothy: You are based in sort of a wet part of the world. How does it stand out to the rain?

Ywanne: That is right. Well, Washington State and it does good in rain, it is weather proof, so you can ride on wet earth and you can ride through puddles and things like that.

Timothy: Okay, if people want to learn more about this product, is there any place they should go to learn?

Ywanne: Solowheel.com.

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Solowheel is for People Who Think a Segway is Boring (Video)

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