Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation

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.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

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

Comments Filter:
  • by Scarletdown (886459) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @03:59PM (#42755011) Journal

    Finally, Peter's wheel [wikipedia.org] has gone into production at last.

  • Downhill (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @03:59PM (#42755013) Journal

    Going downhill on a regular unicycle is harder than going uphill too. Up hill you just apply brute strength to climb as hard as you can. Down hill you have to brake with your legs keeping the unicycle at just the right speed so it stays under you.

    • It's supposed to have regenerative braking, so going downhill will send juice back into the battery. I admit I'm intrigued. Not $1,300 intrigued, but still.

    • At least it seems to be portable.
    • True, but it's a great way to learn how to ride unicycle backwards.

    • The other problem with going downhill on a regular unicycle is that when you fall off and jump off the front, sometimes the unicycle gets caught in your legs. Going uphill, when you jump off, the unicycle lands behind you.
    • I beg to differ. While you might argue that a simple model show the same energy requirement for ascending a hill as braking on the descent, I'm a mountain unicyclist and that is not at all the subjective experience. I find riding downhill is an easy skill to pick up; significantly less taxing than riding uphill; not at all comparable to the effort required when climbing. For example, the big bumps at the BMX track can be a serious challenge to climb, but unplanned dismounts on the downhill side are rare.
      • by Jeremi (14640)

        While you might argue that a simple model show the same energy requirement for ascending a hill as braking on the descent, I'm a mountain unicyclist and that is not at all the subjective experience.

        If your unicycle is equipped with a brake, sure.

        Without a brake, downhill is much riskier because the consequence of your legs getting tired is worse.

        On a flat surface or uphill slope, if your legs get tired you can just slow the unicycle down (or stop and hop off) until your legs recover.

        On a downhill slope, if your legs get tired you will start to go faster, eventually to the point that the pedals are turning fast enough that you can no longer synchronize your leg strokes with the position of the pedals t

        • On a downhill slope, if your legs get tired you will start to go faster, eventually to the point that the pedals are turning fast enough that you can no longer synchronize your leg strokes with the position of the pedals to control your speed at all. At that point the unicycle will get ahead of you and you will fall backwards onto your ass at high speed, which isn't much fun. :(

          I agree that there is more risk riding down trails than up them, but not for the reason you cite. A rider has no angular momentum when the unicycle shoots forward, and does not "rotate backwards onto your ass" in this scenario. Instead, you put a foot down on the ground and, usually, walk/jog forward (thus the term unplanned dismount). There is a risk of tripping, especially on uneven terrain, but no one said mountain riding was safe.

          • by Jeremi (14640)

            A rider has no angular momentum when the unicycle shoots forward, and does not "rotate backwards onto your ass" in this scenario.

            Well, I can assure you that is what happened to me. I lost a significant amount of skin in the process, too. :) Note that I didn't say "rotate backwards", but rather "fall backwards", because that is what happens when you let the unicycle (and therefore your feet and legs) get out in front of you. (The "high speed" part refers not to rotation but rather to the speed of the unicycle+rider with respect to the ground, since the unicycle has been accelerating downhill)

  • I love this stuff (Score:5, Informative)

    by Teppy (105859) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @04:08PM (#42755115) Homepage
    I just got a Solo Wheel - it's harder to learn than you'd expect by looking at the videos (way, WAY harder than learning to ride a Segway, which was pretty much instantaneous for me.) But it's an absolute blast once you do learn, and the one nice day that I've ridden around in public, I had dozens of strangers coming up to me and asking all sorts of questions.

    I really want one of the RYNO Motors [rynomotors.com] gadgets next - planning to ride one of those all over Burning Man.

    And this thing [geekalerts.com] looks like a blast as well, but those treads look dangerous as hell!
    • How much does a Solo Wheel cost? I tried to check on their site, but it was slashdotted.
      • by Azmodan (572615)
        I knew people didnt RTFA but it's in the summary :

        And "to market" isn't a dream; for about $1800, you can have an experience that's a bit more intense than a Segway

        • My bad.. I'm usually better than that, but was distracted by the shiny video! (which I didn't listen to, since I try to stay muted at work).. Missed most of the summary. Thanks!
        • I knew people didnt RTFA but it's in the summary :

          It's been about ten years since I've trusted a Slashdot summary.

      • According to google, it costs around $1500. The RYNO costs around $4500. I'd love to get the RYNO, but the last 250 CC motorcycle I bought was $4000, so I think $4500 is a bit steep and probably not going to interest me unless it goes down to $2000. I also think that the Solowheel should drop to about $1000. I would love to own either product, but the price is too high for what you get.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I got one as well, it took me 3 days to learn to ride - definately tricky, but a lot of fun ensues when your friends ask to try it and they can't!
      I live in San Francisco and the solowheel can make it up some of the steepest hills around here, though the battery life drain MUCH more quickly when you are going uphill.

      These things are a blast, and it's fun to see all the gawking that happens when you go by - it's often that people will run after me to find out what it is. :) You get way more looks and questio

    • it's harder to learn than you'd expect by looking at the videos

      I expect it to be quite hard, so I guess I'll be passing on this one.

    • by loufoque (1400831)

      So you admit to having spent a large amount of money just to look cool in front of strangers?

      • Anything wrong with that? I would love it if strangers spent large amounts of money to look cool in front of me!

        • by loufoque (1400831)

          It is ultimately useless, and can therefore be considered a waste of money.
          Wasting money upsets people who do not have enough.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      Do you consider it a practical way to get around town or more of a fun toy?

    • I live in Japan and while I have a hybrid light car(K-car Japanese Standard), I try to save money by walking(when it's raining/snowing) or riding my bicycle(on sunny/cloudy days). However, honestly, I don't exactly enjoy bicycles(nothing wrong with them, just personal preferences). Motorcycles are great but I'm not comfortable with the idea to share the road with cars that weight at least 10 times more and a segway is way too overpriced(and fugly). If you lived about 5km( 3 miles) from your work, would you
      • by Zies (2830603)

        Very usable for daily life.
        I own one of these and I use it 4x each day to travel 1.5km from home to work and back. Was doing this ride by bicycle for twenty years and I wanted a change.

        At first it was a challenge, I had to stop to rest halfway. Now, with enough practise, it's simple, effortless.
        I prefer the Solowheel to the bicycle for this distance although it takes a bit more time.

        I carry the Solowheel along in the train when I have to visit customers, even if they're near the train station. It's a b

    • by MR-808 (559751)

      Since people riding Segways look ridiculous, I'd say it's worth the extra effort to learn to ride the Solowheel.

      • So, the people riding this don't look ridiculous? I'd say it's about the same as a Segway, though neither is terrible. In a society that people wear baggy pants so their underwear shows, this is nothing.

        And get off my lawn.

        • by Zies (2830603)

          So, the people riding this don't look ridiculous?

          No they don't look ridiculous - I am told it looks cool and elegant.

  • Get a better mic timmy. That was like voices from the fishtank. Interesting interview though and a cool toy. The young lady should lift her lips a bit more though, looks like she's trying to hide her teeth.

    • by Mattcelt (454751)

      That's actually a cultural thing in some parts of Asia. You'll notice that women often cover their mouths when laughing; it's considered uncouth for a woman to show her teeth.

    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      Get a better mic timmy.

      This. Quit using the onboard camera mic for what is supposed to be a semi-professional interview. On the plus side at least it doesn't look like it was shot with a cell phone.

  • Looks like the wheel that caveman guy rides around on in the comic 'B.C.'

  • www.solowheel.com slashdotted.
    Solo server, solo core, solo thread, eh?
  • Now I want to cosplay as Gizmoduck with one of these. That would be some awesome cosplay.
  • The Inventist website has a bunch of cool inventions by this guy!
    http://inventist.com/ [inventist.com]

  • Did you see the girl awkwardly put her hand in her pocket?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfv1FhdaBBk [youtube.com]

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeMSqUpWMMU [youtube.com] reminds me so much of this game.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

Working...