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This is IT? 1787

Dave (picked at random) and 8000 other slashdot readers wrote in to tell us that they too had been overcome by the relentless hype machine that is IT, Ginger, Segway, whatever. Read about IT in your favorite hype-dispensing media outlet, each of which thinks that it has an exclusive on the story of IT. Flash diagram of IT. Time. NY Times. Reuters. And don't forget to watch the advertisement, errr, "demonstration" of IT on Good Morning Consumers tomorrow. Update: 12/03 13:37 GMT by T : Segway's webmaster John Grohol points out the segway website as well.
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This is IT?

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  • Southpark (Score:3, Funny)

    by fishebulb ( 257214 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:00AM (#2645553)
    The southpark version was hilarious
    "Well atleast its better than dealing with the airlines"
  • by MelMcGee ( 538062 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:00AM (#2645555) Homepage
    "Nothing has happened at the level of the pedestrian to improve transportation since we invented the sneaker..." Really. Firstly, once on wheels, can the driver be considered a "pedestrian?" Secondly, what about bicycles, scooters, and the like. I'm sure there is some incredible technology going on there, but the arrogance seems much more powerful.
  • by IRNI ( 5906 ) <irni@ir[ ]net ['ni.' in gap]> on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:01AM (#2645557) Homepage
    It may be hyped but it could be a breakthrough. At any rate it is something that interests us as geeks. Stories about this broke on friday or maybe before and you have been getting thousands of submissions on the subject. It took you until tonight to actually post it. Hi, I don't know if you know tons of people think things are neat that you may not, but it is true. So if you get lots of posts on something then maybe it is worth posting.
  • South Park (Score:3, Offtopic)

    by man_ls ( 248470 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:03AM (#2645566)
    Wasn't there a thing named IT in an episode of South Park? Mr. Garrison was pissed at airline companies and invented his own form of transportation involing a gyroscope and an anal probe.

    • Yep... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Greyfox ( 87712 )
      And it was in part spoofing the original IT stories. It was a good episode, well worth watching. As far as I'm concerned, their comments about air travel were dead on ("Will people go through that just to get around?" "It's still better than dealing with the airlines" "Oh... Yeah... Yeah...")
  • by banky ( 9941 )
    The most important part of this is the "just think about stopping" part, the advanced system that mimics human movement.

    While I predict this will be at BEST a fad, we can now finally take the core technology and start building robotic war mecha.
  • What a big yawn (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What a load of hype. So the Segway has no engine or brakes, but it has motors. So, it uses gyros and the motors to maintain stability/locomotion (doing away with the throttle), and it uses a wrist control to go left/right. The motors must use regenerative braking to stop and recharge the batteries. Looks like the Segway is an imaginative, very high-tech, very expensive.... electric scooter.

    Hmm... If the Segway is allowed on sidewalks, there would be instant competition in the form of conventional electric scooters. They wouldn't be anywhere near as cool, but they also wouldn't cost $3000 or more. And, they'd run longer since they would not need to expend juice to feed the gyros and microcontrollers.
    • You said:

      If the Segway is allowed on sidewalks, there would be instant competition in the form of conventional electric scooters.

      Actually, if the Segway IT were allowed on sidewalks, there would be instant lawsuits, courtesy of conventional injury lawyers. Forget about skateboarders running into old ladies -- IT is gonna be great! "Call 1-800-ITHURTS!" :->

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Another thing to make Americans more lazy. I mean come on if you cant bring yourself to walk the 25 feet between your living room and bathroom to take a leak, you should be shot. 7 deadly sins - sloth.

    Necessity breeds innovention. If your 500lbs boss cant seem to walk the distance between his/her limo and office then use Ginger!!!! Think of all the pain on his/her knee joints.

    My sig (if i could remember my login): Je m'en fiche!
  • cities eh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jonnycowboy ( 515894 )
    It just be super-revolutionary,but do we all really beleive Steve Job's comment that "cities will be built around it?" taking a looking at Time's 'scoop', i find that hardly possible.
  • by szcx ( 81006 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:15AM (#2645616)
    Steve Jobs has seen it and he said it would change the world. Remember the last time he said that? He was introducing the iMac.
  • Developed at a cost of more than $100 million, Kamen's vehicle is a complex bundle of hardware and software that mimics the human body's ability to maintain its balance. Not only does it have no brakes, it also has no engine, no throttle, no gearshift and no steering wheel. And it can carry the average rider for a full day, nonstop, on only five cents' worth of electricity.

    Anyone got a better idea what this is about?

    No Engine?

    Why do I suddenly feel like Homer?

    • Re:No Engine? (Score:4, Redundant)

      by drivers ( 45076 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:44AM (#2645770)
      It doesn't have an engine but it has two electric motors per wheel (4 total). Each wheel is independent so it can turn on a dime (no axel). Also, if one motor goes out the thing can still work with just the other one. It also has redundant "sisterboards". Also, the gyroscopes/accelerometers (5) are redundant in that their results are checked against each other.
      http://www.time.com/time/2001/segway/index.html [time.com]
    • Re:No Engine? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Rocket_Sci ( 76962 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:52AM (#2645819) Journal
      I used to be a Rocket Scientist (for real.... well, actually a Guidance, Navigation, and Control Flight Software Engineer for rockets) and this confused me a bit too.

      If you look at the flash diagram, it actually has two small electric motors. (these aren't "engines"?).

      The gyroscopes are used to provide torques to help the rider balance. The accelerometers detect the command motions (leaning forward or back or straight up). The small motors propel the Segway forward. (or backwards).

      The fancy trick here is getting the control system software to tell the difference between a rider falling forward and 'commanding' forward by leaning forward. (amoung other fancy tricks). Overall the concept is simple, but the implentation is not as easy as it looks.
  • Apparently, balance is attained with the help of sensors and logic boards and powerful electric motors. I think it'll be fun to watch an IT malfunction (perhaps as a result of a bug in the firmware) or run out of juice while someone is riding it. Will she fall forwards or backwards? In any case, I am sure it will be a very characteristic and, after a while, instantly recognizable motion. IT will be the high-tech version of the banana peel -- instant laugh for everybody who's watching at that fateful moment.

  • by jkovach ( 1036 ) <slashdot@jkovach.net> on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:19AM (#2645634) Homepage
    When I look at the hype surrounding this thing, it reminds me of Transmeta. Transmeta had some of the world's brightest computer geeks working on a s3kr1t pr0j3k+ that would change the world, and it turned out to be yet another x86 clone (whoo hoo.) Now there is another company with bright scientists working on a s3kr1t pr0j3k+ that would change the world, and it turns out to be a motorscooter. (whoo hoo.)

    Moral of the story: Don't believe the hype.
  • ..you gotta admit, it could solve some real problems in big cities. Kamen's genius lies not only in his engineering, but in his realistic viewpoint. He knows that, except for the early adopter crowd, people aren't going to want these. However, that won't matter. If you read the Time article, he tells you straight up that he's going to focus on postal carriers, police, etc. first. Once Ginger is proven in those capacities, people will want one. Also note that he's seeing it as a middle ground commute vehicle. I personally would've shelled out the money to be able to be in traffic with a Ginger instead of my pig of a car that takes so much space and had a payload of exactly 1 person. (And don't even get me started on car pooling; what a frickin waste of time!)
  • IT's not for you! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rufusdufus ( 450462 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:20AM (#2645641)
    This thing is not for rich suburban white guys who hang out on internet all day. Its for postmen and chinamen. Ever been to a crowded asian city? What a nightmare. The elites will definitaly prefer a Segway to other vehicles. The american consumer is probably the last market for this thing.
    • This thing is not for rich suburban white guys who hang out on internet all day. Its for postmen and chinamen.

      Of course! How silly of me!! Of course the average citizen in a chinese city could afford an *electric* scooter with a $3k USD price tag!

      Tell me, do you, Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs smoke crack together or alone in your biodomes?
      • Its for postmen

      And walking is so bad beeeeecause? Does it make a lot of sense to have to lug a 30kg lump of metal up and down stairs and rough paths, or leave the same $3000 trinket standing around while you go and deliver items?

      • and chinamen. Ever been to a crowded asian city? What a nightmare

      So, it is going to shove pedestrians off the sidewalks to be mown down by bicycles and motor vehicles, or do you see people doing the honourable thing and taking to the roads themselves to be mown down by bikes and motor vehicles?

      This thing does 8mph, is less manouverable than a pedestrian but less predictable than a bicycle in where it's going, costs a lot (technology and raw materials, not just inflated US retail price), has *ongoing* costs in replacing the NiCd / NiMH cells and requires about a jillion power outlets everywhere. Maybe you're right, but the bicycle seems to be doing a fair job as it is, and I'm not seeing a huge incentive to switch.

  • so what? (Score:2, Redundant)

    by truesaer ( 135079 )
    This thing is probably expensive and weighs a ton. Oooh, it stands up on its own, how have I lived without it! If you want an electric personal transportation device, TH!NK [thinkmobility.com] about one of these instead.
  • I must admit that I'm fairly disappointed by "IT". I was somehow hoping for giant war mecha or something of that type. I don't know...an electric scooter like this just lacks something...especially after all this hype. Reading through the posts here, I can see that most of you are in agreement with me. However, I really think we're missing the point. Steve Jobs could be right.
    We Americans have never really been very much interested in public transportation. Trains, busses, subways...they all take second place to our cars. Our nice, inefficient, polluting cars. Now then, could you imagine if these things genuinely cought on? Imagine having our cities interconnected with high-speed railways, not highways. Imagine replacing all the roads in our cities with smaller pedestrian walkways, populated with people on Segways. Imagine how much less polution there would be, how much less noise would be generated, and how much less space would be wasted.

    Yeah, I know...I'm still waiting for my flying cars and giant robots...but this could actually be useful technology.

    • I'm sorry, people won't use this as a mainstream form of transportation. The smallest form of transportation that people will use is a scooter (Vespa size.... like a small motorcycle). These are widepsread in Europe (ever been to Rome?). Something the size of IT/Ginger is just too small (thats why the motorized Razors haven't caught on). Scooters are small enough to fit a dozen or three on normal city streets (where only 3-4 cars would go) yet large enough to still hold up to 2 riders and a bag or two of groceries while moving at upt to 45 mph. And the greatest part? They use *existing* infrastructure. Don't get me wrong, gyroscopes and no pollution rock in my book, but the fact of the matter is that most people need more functionality out of their vehicles than a motorized skateboard.
  • by drivers ( 45076 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:23AM (#2645656)
    You say it is "just a scooter". That is like calling the automobile just a "horseless carriage." It's just the closest concept you have to fit. As far as hype, Kamen tried to downplay the "hype" none of which was advertisement, but statements "taken out of context" from the likes of Jobs and Metcalfe (you know the guy who said linux would "fade away"). Can't you see that a vehicle which uses Dynamic Stability to be driven as an extension of your own body movements is a great innovation? What the hell happened to Slashdot, where putting linux on the dreamcast is cool, just because it can be done, yet the Segway is "just a scooter." What the hell?
    • Does IT run Linux?

    • by TomatoMan ( 93630 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:45AM (#2645775) Homepage Journal
      It's not that big a deal, really. All it will do is enable me to:
      • Use public transportation again because it solves the mid-range travel problem of getting to/from the bus terminal/train station
      • Save about $4000 a year on parking fees in Boston, since I'll be able to put the car out in the burbs somewhere where parking is cheap
      • Get around town generating absolutely no pollution

      ...little things like that. So I don't see what the hype is all about either. I mean come on, it doesn't even fly!
      • by mikeee ( 137160 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:47PM (#2648282)
        >Get around town generating absolutely no >pollution

        And that electricity is coming from where, fairies?

        Uh, if you're in Boston, your electricity is probably coming from a 40-year-old natural-gas or coal-fired plant. You might well produce less pollution in some of the new SLEV Hondas than on an electric scooter.
        • Of course you are generating less polution! You are not carrying around a ton of steel with you wherever you go. Even if you generate more polution you are using way less enegry. Duh!
    • Less cool at $3000 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jabbo ( 860 ) <jabbo@yahoo. c o m> on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:52AM (#2645826)
      Being a bicyclist, I am partial to light, fast, cheap transportation. The Segway appears to be none of these. It is expensive, a brute-force solution to a non-problem IMHO. That's why I, at least, am underwhelmed.

      Then again, I dislocated my shoulder last week on my bicycle while avoiding traffic. Maybe I can ride it again tomorrow, maybe not, but it has been quite painful and made it much harder to run errands around town (take the time to run an errand on a bike and double it; you've just arrived at the time to complete it, driving, if it's in downtown DC and you have to park). This device would make such injuries irrelevant. I'm sure it would be wonderful for elderly or infirm people who can't drive. So perhaps I am an "able-ist" in that I am biased to think about things as if I'll always be hale and healthy.

      If the product is made affordable, it would be a lot nicer and less intrusive than a Lark or a Rascal for sure. But I don't see it as being quite as revolutionary as the car, simply because it does not radically increase carrying capacity, doesn't really offer commercially compelling advantages over a regular scooter, pair of feet, or a bicycle to balance out the cost... I don't see how this device would change the world for the average mope, but for some people it sounds like a godsend.

      Attenuate your expectations, as this Dean Kamen seems to be telling us, and in context it is pretty neat. Not earth-shattering, but pretty neat, alright.
      • ok, i kind of feel lazy even pointing this out, but...

        The revolutionary aspect of this thing is that yeah it has gyroscopes and all that shtuff, but in reality, it is "walking for the lazy man" and is related to this product [theonion.com]. The implecations of this aren't fantastic, and its not gonna change the world, but anything that makes a lazy man's life less mobile is worth.... something..... i dunno, you finish my post for me...

    • by truesaer ( 135079 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:54AM (#2645832) Homepage
      Can't you see that a vehicle which uses Dynamic Stability to be driven as an extension of your own body movements is a great innovation?

      Not really, it just seems like a way to waste money. If this was some kind of research project to develop stable gryos for other applications (which it may prove useful for afterall), then we would all applaud it. But so WHAT if it can stand up on its own? So WHAT if it has a turning radius of zero?

      Its three thousand dollars. It probably goes much slower than an electric bike (~20 mph) and probably has heavy batteries, just like an electric bike. It will be stolen within a weeks time if you leave it anywhere but locked in your garage (no matter what spiffy lock you use in public).

      This is not revolutionary, although it seems to be quite a feat of engineering. What will be great are things like fuel cells instead of batteries. Weight is a real problem with any bike/scooter/moped powered by batteries. It will be revolutionary when you can buy something with this much electronics for a few hundred dollars. For now, I'm only slightly impressed.

      • by JohnsonWax ( 195390 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @02:59AM (#2646332)
        It is revolutionary. You just can't see the markets in which it is. Do all Slashdot readers live in Des Moines where this thing will likely not be a revolution?

        Think of college campuses where cars are hard to manage - shove up to 40,000 students away from the campus (parking and housing) and reclaim the space for classrooms. 75% of the US high-school population will go to college, and half of these will attend a university with a population of 10,000 or more - each a small planned city. These already employ fleets of electric and natural gas cars and carts. I bet every major university in the US will be discussing the feasibility of banning autos from their campuses tomorrow.

        Think of new cities. There are roughly 2 billion people in India and China, both nations struggling with transportation and at least some of that tied to limited access to oil and refineries.

        The US is not the killer market for this. NY could do solve some huge problems with widespread adoption of this. Vegas could benefit. Theme parks are designed around how far people are willing to walk. This can change all of that. Disney loans you a Segway when you enter their new theme park. So what if it's 15,000 acres? Who cares about the monorail?

        >But so WHAT if it can stand up on its own?

        Well, there are a lot of people that don't trust themselves on a bike. Bikes are hard in a suit, with heels, in a skirt. They generally go too fast. Bikes are banned in many places because they are too dangerous. Twice walking speed isn't too scary for a mall or airport, especially if there's no way in hell you can fall over. Just not having to worry about falling over will win a ton of people over.

        >Weight is a real problem with any bike/scooter/moped powered by batteries.

        True, but this has a follow feature that basically makes it a self-propelled pull behind, even on stairs. I imagine it'll be like pulling a broom behind you. No sweat.

        It'll get lighter, go farther, get cheaper. There will be more people willing to pay $3,000 than they can accommodate, I guarantee.
        • > Think of college campuses where cars are hard to manage

          I live in a university city (Cambridge (UK, not Ma.)) where students aren't generally allowed to keep cars, and staff permits for most car pars are extremely limited.
          Most students have bikes. Very very few (if any) of them have $3000 bikes. Few of them have $300 bikes. And a bike is lighter, faster, easier to carry loads on, simpler to maintain, and there are lots of existing bike racks (with no power for recharging batteries).
    • You say it is "just a scooter". That is like calling the automobile just a "horseless carriage."

      I don't think so. The Segway and scooter serve the same purpose, and get the job done with negligible difference in method and results from a users perspective. A carriage, on the other hand, lacks a mile-long list of features that a car has.

      It's just the closest concept you have to fit.

      Yes, and beyond technology, which is irrelevant from a users point of view, how is this any different from a scooter?

      Can't you see that a vehicle which uses Dynamic Stability to be driven as an extension of your own body movements is a great innovation?

      Yes, its an innovation, but is it an advancement or just a cool hack thats too costly to be commercially viable? Most seem to think the latter.

    • Can't you see that a vehicle which uses Dynamic Stability to be driven as an extension of your own body movements is a great innovation?

      What, you mean like... a bicycle? Or roller skates?

      Hell, I drive my car via an extension of my own body movements. I call this miraculous technology "the steering wheel."
    • Stillborn (Score:5, Funny)

      by rve ( 4436 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @05:37AM (#2646758)
      This invetion will go the way of the Sinclair horizontal bike.

      It is awkward, expensive, makes you look like a dork, and isn't really more useful than something you already had.

      Mind you, I'm never wrong about these things. When the CD-ROM was invented, I accurately predicted we would never hear from such a useless invention again. After all, it was more expensive than the PC you plug it in, and all of that for half a GB of read only data, while no one could have any conceivable use for read only data.

      I also accurately predicted that Java would be just a fad. After all, who would need a slow interpreted platform independant language while only one platform would exist a few years on.

      this time I'm right tho.
  • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:24AM (#2645666) Homepage Journal
    My street is 45mph, it only does 17mph. I only live 5 miles from work, but we dont have bike lanes or sidewalks for me to use it. Most of the people at work live 20+ miles, not doable. And my laptop bag is too heavy to carry that far.

    Really, the only thing I could use it for is short trips to the store, but where would I carry my groceries?

    Before I could use it daily, need the roads to have bike lanes, and I need to carry a payload.
  • by SimJockey ( 13967 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:28AM (#2645683) Homepage Journal
    Go to www.segway.com [segway.com] and you'll get the standard IE "This page cannot be displayed" form with all sorts of helpful advice on why it can't.
    Which is all well and good, except I am using Omniweb. Damn that freaked me out.
    Let the conspiracy theories begin!
  • by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:32AM (#2645704) Journal
    Just then, Kamen rides up and hands his Segway over to Bezos. As the Amazon boss races madly around the warehouse, hooting and cackling and flapping his arms, someone yells out, "Yo, Jeff, what were you saying about the consumer market?" Whizzing past, Bezos shouts back, "There's definitely at least a consumer market of one!"

    Now that's a scary picture

  • This is IT? (Score:5, Funny)

    by RQuinn ( 521500 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:33AM (#2645706)
    Damn it, I was hoping for a child-eating clown
  • I'm Surprised (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moonboy ( 2512 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:36AM (#2645727) Homepage

    Actually, I'm really surprised.

    I would have expected a lot more acceptance from the other readers of Slashdot. Or maybe it is simply a case of the "Slashdot Syndrome". (that would be not reading the entire article before you post.)

    This is amazing technology!

    From the Time article:

    "Lean forward, go forward; lean back, go back; turn by twisting your wrist. The experience is the same going uphill, downhill or across any kind of terrain--even ice. It is nothing like riding a bike or a motorcycle. Instead, in the words of Vern Loucks, the former chairman of Baxter International and a Segway board member, "it's like skiing without the snow."

    I don't know how many of you have ever been snow skiing, but it is amazing! There is a reason it's so popular.

    Also from the article:

    "Cars are great for going long distances," Kamen says, "but it makes no sense at all for people in cities to use a 4,000-lb. piece of metal to haul their 150-lb. asses around town."

    This is so true! We are so wasteful as a nation in this way. It makes absolutely no sense!

    Again, from the article:

    "...Dean Kamen...The 50-year-old son of a comic-book artist, he is a college dropout, a self-taught physicist and mechanical engineer with a handful of honorary doctorates, a multimillionaire who wears the same outfit for every occasion: blue jeans, a blue work shirt and a pair of Timberland boots." and "But if Kamen's personality is half Willy Wonka, the other half is closer to Thomas Edison. While he was still struggling in college, Kamen invented the first drug-infusion pump, which enabled doctors to deliver steady, reliable doses to patients. In the years that followed, he invented the first portable insulin pump, the first portable dialysis machine and an array of heart stents, one of which now resides inside Vice President Dick Cheney."

    This guy is a hackers hacker! Give the guy a break. I'll be the first to say it (on Slashdot anyway) I think it's going to be a huge hit!

  • by Camel Pilot ( 78781 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:37AM (#2645734) Homepage Journal
    The flash presentation makes an interesting claim on the motors:

    "Two of them drive each wheel independently. Fully redundant. If one fails, the other takes over."

    I would like to see this.

    Also claims to have 5 Gyro's that "operate by commitee, voting among themselves to eliminate errent readings"

    Would this device work in Florida?
  • by pagercam2 ( 533686 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:41AM (#2645758)
    Electric Scooter $3000 or $600 Bike + $2400 Beer.
    IT = 8MPH, Bike = 15MPH
    IT = no excersize, Bike = 300+ Cal/hr
    IT = No beer, Bike 2400 micro brew or 4800 Bud/MGD
    IT = requires power, Bike = burn off beer gut (see above)
    • by sadclown ( 303554 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:08PM (#2647947)
      A few additions:
      IT=$3000, Used Bike=$100

      IT top speed=12mph, Bike top speed=30+mph

      IT weight=60+lbs, Bike weight=20-25 lbs

      IT parts=specialized, only 1 manufacturer, unavailable overseas

      Bike parts=available everywhere(even Afghanistan), mass-produced, ridiculously cheap

      IT repair=send it back to the factory

      Bike repair=send it down the block or do it yourself (even Afghanistan)

      IT infrastructure=requires significant restructuring of sidewalk laws for motor vehicles, new "etiquette" to avoid collisions with pedestrians, too slow even for a bike lane

      Bike infrastructure=all states and nations already have laws pertaining to bikes, most civilized countries have bike lanes in place in major cities (except for most of the US), significant lobbying groups already exist throughout the world dedicated to increasing the use of bicycles

      Most importantly, bicycles are not dangerous. Bicycles are considered dangerous because of the proliferation of automobiles who make biking conditions unsafe. With proper bike lanes(shielded from traffic by planters and no parking on the curb) and increased usage, bike usage could be much more safe and common (see Amsterdam or China).

      Problems of balance for the elderly and inexperienced are easily solved by tricycles (yes!) and low-to-the-ground recumbent vehicles. Problems of hills are easily solved by low cost electric motors like those on Lee Iacocca's ebike.

      If Dean Kamen really wanted to solve the transportation crisis, he would have spent $100 million on lobbying to increase legislation to make cities more bike friendly. Cities need bike lanes, bike paths, bike parking, bike rooms at work, showers at work, and a multitude of other things. Thousands of people have been working on this problem for the past 150 years, only to have their work ignored by lazy, ignorant consumers, rich, powerful oil and auto industries, incompetent politicians, and over-hyped entrepreneurs.
  • by cryptochrome ( 303529 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:45AM (#2645778) Journal
    Seriously... it's an interesting piece of tech, but I'll take my bike anyday.
  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:45AM (#2645782) Homepage Journal
    I think all the people who are saying "electric scooter, big whoop. $3,000, yeah right" are slightly missing the point. Yeah, it's kind of wimpy for the price tag. Yeah, it's kind of expensive, and it's questionable who would want to use it.

    But this is just the first model. It's more sort of a proof of concept--a demonstration that the scooter can work, and looks as neat as all get-out in motion. As time goes on, the performance will improve and the price will fall.

    Look at the Palm (Pilot). The first model was, what, 128K? With no backlight, no infra-red, or anything? And how high was the price tag? And now the Visor Deluxe, which was at one time the wet dream of anybody who even looked at a Palm, is only $130 brand new.

    Look at the DVD player. The original models were expensive enough, the first bunch of discs were glitchy enough, that a lot of people scoffed and made snide remarks. But the DVD went on to become the fastest-adopted new consumer technology ever.

    So here we have a relatively slow, electric-powered self-stabilizing scooter, for $3,000. Are very many of us going to buy it? Do very many of us have the money to sink into that sort of gee-gaw? No and no. I know I'm not going to be spending three grand on something like that myself, either. Nor would I be likely to spend two grand, or even one grand.

    But by the time it gets to about $500, sign me up.
    • by TH4L35 ( 310071 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @03:57AM (#2646534)

      Lets take a look at the the two real complaints -cost and weight- for a moment. Both will obviously come down drastically over the years.

      Three things- electronics, gyroscopes, and the batteries make the Segway expensive. The electronics will be a tenth the price within a month of even a single Segway sisterboard making it to Taipie, no matter how poorly the Segway's sales might do. Barring any hereforeto unforeseen aviation boom, I imagine that the gyroscopes will probably only drop in price in proportion with the volume of Segways produced. The batteries should far slightly better (but not as good as the electronics), steadily, albeit slowly, dropping in price over time, a trend that will also take place whether or not Segway is successful.

      As I see it, only one thing really adds significant weight to Segway, and that is the batteries. They mention both NiCd and NiMH batteries can be used. IANABE (battery expert?), but I would bet that they are using those older battery technologies because of their power-to-weight ratios, or perhaps even their power-to-volume ratios. Many other power solutions are available, each with drawbacks. Batteries where probably chosen for efficiency, simplicity, and safety concerns. Better battery tech, or fuel cells, or Stirling engines, or even gasoline engines (probably requiring some lightweight, high-velocity flywheels for energy storage) could potentially help reduce the current weight of the Segway. Heck, if these things do become popular in cities, run them right off of overhead wires, like bumper cars! Or maybe even through substreet power lines via inductance. No need for much of a battery at all then.
  • um.. what hype? (Score:5, Informative)

    by dangermouse ( 2242 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:47AM (#2645794) Homepage
    Everyone ("Time" included) seems to be babbling about all the "hype" surrounding IT/Ginger, but I haven't noticed much.

    Every once in a while for the past couple of months, I'd come across some tiny blurb about "the much-hyped (IT|Ginger)". But these blurbs, which seemed to be few and far between, primarily dealt with the "hype" surrounding this thing. They would have been a sort of meta-hype, except that there weren't even enough of those articles to constitute anything more than a sort of collective raised eyebrow.

    There wasn't even a concerted effort to be mysterious about it, as far as I can tell. Nobody was saying much, and nobody much cared when it did come up.

    So now I'm supposed to believe that this scooter thing was made out to be the next Sliced Bread, that everyone was quivering in anticipation, and that rumours have been swirling for months about its mysterious nature? Bullshit, we've barely heard of it. This is a strange sort of revisionist history indeed.

    Or maybe I just don't go to the same parties that Time reporters do.

  • Hackable? (Score:5, Funny)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @12:59AM (#2645861) Homepage
    This thing is a hacker's dream. It looks quite modern - microprocessors, firmware, etc. Not purely mechanical. The speed limit is set by the circuitry -- which means it is all hackable.

    Imagine programming one of these things to spin you around, then accelerate to breakneck speed (perhaps literally) This could be quite fun!
    • Yeah, just wait till Segway/KillKillKill.FlashROM comes out.

      Recognize when a user wants to stop and accelerate them to 90 MPH.

      We'll have assassins running around with ROM flashers. Yeesh.
  • by cryptochrome ( 303529 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:00AM (#2645871) Journal
    What Dean seems not to have realized is that although a segway would be useful in some cities, it won't be to any in America that I can think of. He intended it to replace the car for in-city commuting. But the problem with cars in-city is not from people residing within it - it's from all the people commuting to and from the city. The fact is, most people either live in the suburbs and commute all over the place by car, or in a few cases (New York especially) live in the city and commute by walking and public transportation. The segway is not in competition with the walker or the car, but the bike - a cheaper, faster, healthier, more flexible (try hauling a 60lb segway up stairs) and more environmentally responsible way of getting around. The segway might have some uses for certain industries and age groups, and it will probably go over better in Europe and especially Japan, but here in the states there's not much point to it.
    • by Rocket_Sci ( 76962 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:19AM (#2645927) Journal
      We working in a global market. So what if most american cities can't make use of the segway? Who cares? This country is only 260 million out of 5 billion people. Small potatoes. What about China or India? They have huge cites, and few cars.

      What happens when this thing gets lighter, more durable, and cheaper?

      I know that I could use it right now (Boston). I walk to work everyday about 1.5 miles, and it would be cool to be able to ride on one of these. In fact, I would move futher if I could pipe along at 17 miles an hour.

      I'm suprised at all the negative comments in this forum. Who wouldn't want one of these? What if it got down to $500? I mean, it's not as cool as a personal helicopter, but it's cool allright.

      Think industrial, not just cites. Would this we useful getting around a large factory? (yes) How about delivering mail, fedex, or pizza door to door? (yes)

      We all realize that it's not going to instantly change the world, but neither did the automobile or the airplane. It was a long process before things changed. Given time these things might get adopted all over the place. We'll see how it goes.

      I like to think of it as an alternative to the bike, not competition. Both can easily coexist.
    • The concept (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Animats ( 122034 )
      The concept is that you redesign cities to support this. Big parking structures, connnecting to bikeway-like roads within the built-up areas. Think campuses and malls. If you're allowed to drive this thing into buildings, the outdoor/indoor distinction matters less.

      A rework of traffic rules will be required. This is a "motor vehicle" in some states, but doesn't meet the requirements for one. It might come under the definition of "motorized bicycle" in California (electric, 1KW max), but you'll need to wear a helmet.

      The real problem is that it's too fast to mix with heavy pedestrian traffic, but too slow to mix with motor vehicles. It self-balances, but doesn't do automatic collision avoidance.

      I'd rather be in an area full of skateboarders than one full of Ginger riders. Skaters have good reflexes.

    • USA No, London Maybe (Score:5, Informative)

      by shut_up_man ( 450725 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @07:16AM (#2646915) Homepage
      You're right - US cities are built around the automobile. Large arterial highways carrying cars large distances at large speeds (well, that's the theory). Cities sprawl - everything feels BIG. It's very American.

      Here in London, it's pretty pointless to own a car, unless you use it to get out of the city. The city is flat, space is at a premium, and walking is actually a viable option, if you've got the time. 3 million people endure the horrors of the London Underground (hot, smelly, crowded, frequently broken) every day, simply because there aren't any alternatives. Segway might just work here, since Londoners are typically businesspeople, and won't do that nasty physically active stuff, like riding bikes.

      As an example, I walked to work once or twice during Tube strikes this year, and it took about an hour. If I could Segway it in 20 mins, this would be *faster* than the tube, and hugely more enjoyable. All I'd need is covered pathways to keep the rain off and I'd be set.
  • Hmph. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chris Johnson ( 580 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:02AM (#2645878) Homepage Journal
    I guess it _is_ a disappointment, after all.

    I had my heart set on it being a twin-turbine personal helicopter :) funny thing is, I had this all worked out to the point where you could damned near build one, all on the basis that Steve Jobs et al wouldn't be fools enough to go ga-ga over a powered scooter.

    I'll give 'em this much though: yes, designing cities without cars WILL eventually be necessary. Yes, that will be interesting and challenging and different. But I thought it had to be a lot more exciting, and pulled together loads of detail such as recent developments in titanium production, the capacity of (highly efficient) jet turbines to route their intake and exhaust in very counterintuitive ways, the geometry of a twin-ducted-fan standing platform and how this would be essentially stable and would require hard leaning to get it to move quickly- and even then, wind resistance on the high-mounted fans would mean that the machine would be trying to slow itself at all times, its CG located very low because a human would be standing on the base and their CG would be irrelevant, the orientation of the device would follow the centering effect of the human's weight delivered through the feet...

    The only thing even vaguely like this would be the SoloTrek, and just think for a second of how much heavier _that_ monster is than a person- it's really just a mini helicopter, not even the balance issues would apply. As such, so much of its awful power and noise etc. is required simply to lift its own weight, and how much better it would be to use titanium and minimal, balance-oriented controls to make something so feather-light that it's barely heavier than a person, far more capable of urban use...

    To top it all off, turbines are ideally suited for just _one_ speed, which is an ideal match for a heli-type device as it would be devoting pretty much every bit of its energy just to hovering, with no engines whatsoever for lateral motion- that would be strictly a matter of leaning in the desired direction like you were in a hang-glider. All this is just _waiting_ to be done, and Kamen has the resources to do it _and_ a background not only in aviation but in helicopters. It seemed so obvious.

    Oh well...

  • more obesity (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vscjoe ( 537452 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:04AM (#2645891)
    Walking is probably the single most important defence against obesity. Zipping around on a little motorized scooter deprives you of even that minimal exercise. If you need to travel moderate distances and walking is too slow, use a bicycle. There are some nifty compact folding bicycles that are cheap, easy to store, and don't require a battery.

    It's also not clear where you are supposed to use these things. Using them in traffic seems more unsafe than a bicycle (since you are even less visible and have even less protection in front of you), but riding anything motorized at 15mph on the sidewalk seems both rude and dangerous. And these things are too slow for bicycle lanes.

    A cynic might say that this is simply an attempt to boost sales of one of Kamen's other technologies: automatic insulin pumps, since obesity is the leading cause of diabetes.

  • No learning curve (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DaoudaW ( 533025 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:09AM (#2645918)
    I was wondering about the learning curve, like I'm trying to keep my balance, and Segway is trying to keep my balance and we get into a violent feedback loop. Then I read Grove was rolling slowly along when Doerr ambled over and pushed him in the chest. When the Segway kept him from losing his balance, Grove emitted a distinctly un-Grove-like giggle.

    Now I'm wondering if we can apply the technology to bicycles, windsurfers, skates, etc. Now that would be awesome: In-line skates that act like Segway.
  • by Tony Shepps ( 333 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:37AM (#2645982) Homepage
    This is one case where the Time article [time.com] is the real winner, and the first one that you should go to - don't bother with any of the others, in fact.

    Amongst the great quotes:

    • And he is well aware that uprooting the vast urban infrastructure that supports cars, from parking garages to bridges and tunnels, won't happen soon. Which is why he has pinned his greatest hopes not on the U.S. but abroad, especially in the developing world.

    • ...for a while, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration wanted to classify the Segway as a "powered industrial truck."
    • The slowest setting, now called training mode, used to be jokingly referred to around DEKA as CEO mode.
  • by Ugmo ( 36922 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:37AM (#2645983)
    I live in NYC. In the 5 boroughs something like this would be great. Places like Hong Kong, downtown London, Chicago, small cities in Italy, any REAL city where people actually walk around, this would be great.
    Places like LA, Phoenix, suburban Long Island where there are no pedestrians anyway would not be suitable for this.
    The TIME article said that speeds of 3-4 times walking speed would be normal.

    In NYC bike messengers already get around the city faster than cars. I see doctors and 60 year old women go through the Village on those Razor scooters. Parking spaces cost more to rent per month than whole houses do in other parts of the country. I go weeks without driving now and didn't own a car until I moved out of NYC temporarily for a few years. Cars in NYC are evil and most people avoid them. A reliable, speedy machine that takes up about the same space as a person would be very welcome.

    As for price, Give it 5 or 10 years and it will be down around a few hundred dollars. In the expensive bike range. Not to mention the used market.
    Of course by then GM or Ford will get into the market and we will have SUV Gingers that weigh 10 tons, run on gasoline and have ostrich skin leather heated bucket seats.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:37AM (#2645986) Journal

    IT was already invented by Johnny Hart, author of the comic strip BC. The prior art is plainly visible in the upper right hand corner of this picture [wghsuccess.com], has been available for quite some time, and appears regularly in newspapers and online.

  • by asv108 ( 141455 ) <asv@ i v o s s . com> on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:47AM (#2646034) Homepage Journal
    Its almost the 2002! I was promised flying cars. Where are the flying cars?
  • by RainbowSix ( 105550 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:48AM (#2646042) Homepage
    He also owns an island off the coast of Connecticut. He calls it North Dumpling, and he considers it a sovereign state. It has a flag, a navy, a currency (one bill has the value of pi) and a mutual nonaggression pact with the U.S., signed by Kamen and the first President Bush

    I don't care what "IT" is, Kamen owns an island with a monetary denomination of pi!
    • Yeah, I live across the Long Island Sound from his island, I can see it out my window. He secceeded from the United States over building a wind turbine as I recall. The state of New York had a law against, and he said screw it and built it anyway. So he's got this island with a big house, a big wind turbine thing on top of it, a duck (one of those cars that drives on water as well as land), and a few other oddities. I honestly don't know that I've ever seen anyone actually ON the island, but it's pretty cool nonetheless.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 03, 2001 @01:49AM (#2646045)

    Initial implications for this device begin at the private sector. Imagine a mail carrier being able to strap on a pack and make a run in half as much time, going across sidewalks, dirt, grass, gravel, etc. Mail carriers at large corporations would be able to use this to get across larger buildings. Security guards could quickly and efficiently make their rounds, making it easier to put more rounds in a night. Park rangers could more easily get from point to point in a park. There are implications for airports, and any long walk areas that have the need for getting a certain percentage of people from point a to b quickly. Think about areas normally patrolled by officers on horseback or rollerblade or bicycle and just introduce segway/IT. Replace every oversized golfcart on a factory line that the management uses to shuffle from place to place inside.

    For the public, there are schools/colleges where you might have classes on oposite ends of the campus, making it difficult to get books and then get to class on time making you carry a double load most of the day. For the infirm/elderly/disabled it would allow them to once again go for a "walk" in the park with their family/friends. It would allow people who are temporary disabled (casts, sprained ankles, etc.) to not need to slowly hobble everywhere they go. It will help the asthmatic who doesn't have the endurance to go on a hike with his friends to finally enjoy the outdoors like others. It would allow those already so damned lazy they can't walk two blocks to the store to not have to get in their car to go get something.

    Notice any key theme in the above? Outdoors? Not just some punk ass kid (which we all were/are at some time) on a "scooter" bumping into you making you spill your latte, or noisily flying down the street on his gas powered scooter interrupting your nightly viewing of "Friends". Look at the design of this machine, large tires, self-balancing, automatic shutoff and speed control safety features, this is a standup ATV. Even if it has say only 30 minutes of battery life that's 4 miles at top speed (I'm assuming). Many people with asthma or cardio/pulminary problems can barely walk a block or two, imagine being able to say you went out for 4 miles. I could almost make it to work on a segway in the same amount of time as it takes me to drive through the traffic, as I'm sure many other people could. Training! Bah! Step on lean forward and go, easy as falling. Safety! Bah! Step off and the device stops dead. Redundancy in computing and drive mechanism means little chance of failure, catostrophic or otherwise. Price! Bah! $8,000 for the "industrial" version $3000 for the commercial version, early adoptors will easily pay. The early adoptors and an increase in chip speed/decrease in chip costs will drive the price down by half within the first year. By Christmas 2003 Korean companies will be selling knockoffs for $250 with fold up chasis and backpack straps. By 2004 they'll come in 15 different colorful shades and be as lame as the jellies, pagers, cell phones, and the backstreet boys.

    Or the same people who drove the hype machine to it's heights can sit around an be dissapointed about how this won't change their miserable lives and bad mouth it and destroy yet another perfectly usable worthwhile product. How anyone could sit and bad mouth a man who educated himself, owns his own country (island), and works to do nothing but make the majority of peoples lives better, is just beyond me.

  • The new Super Cub. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by supabeast! ( 84658 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @03:40AM (#2646467)
    Wnat to know why this is a big deal? Because if it is a small, fast, cheap vehicle, it could be the next Honda Super Cub is a small, cheap scooter that has long been a popular mode of transportation in Europe and third world nations, where the people have little money for vehicles and fuel, or storage space. Honda has been selling the Super Cub for decades, and Super Cub sales worldwide have been a huge staple of Honda's income for a long time. The Super Cub was also an excellent advertising tool, as it made the association of cheap and reliable with Honda for hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people worldwide.

    If "it" can handle travel on a crappy dirt road, and sells cheap, this thing has the potential to be huge in areas with electricity. It could make a company, and in the long-run, be a pretty big deal.

    Of course, I personally think that Kamen works for Microsoft and is going to show off the new ....
  • How long before... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SeeFood ( 2713 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @03:52AM (#2646512) Homepage
    * We see IT in fight rings?

    * IT gets a spot in a Holywood movie?

    * they teach an ape to use one?

    * the black market of stolen Gingers forces Kamen to license the technology?

    * people complain it's a city-street safety hazard?

    * people complain it makes them lazy and we should all go back to walking? (I say it was ofcourse a mistake coming down from the trees in the first place)

    * we get a weatherproof one?

    * someone will model a battle-bot after IT?

    really nice, but I'm not waiting at the edge of my seat to get one :)
  • by JoeGee ( 85189 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @03:54AM (#2646521)
    Granted, when we walk we're falling forward in a controlled fashion, as Kamen states in the Time article, but we then lift ourselves back up and fall again to sustain the walk.

    The batteries are for balancing -- five cents of electricity per day. Where does this beast get the energy to move a few hundred pounds at speeds up to 12 MPH and sustain it "all day"?

    Can the technology scale? Why not build a roofed two-wheel rickshaw for two riders? Imagine commuting at 30 MPH through a city on a few small rechargable batteries. Make it bigger, give it a fluid reservoir for load balancing, and have a two-wheeled four seated family sedan that cruises the highways safely for pennies per lengthy trip.

    I dunno, I will wait until the real world product is in the hands of some real world reviewers before I believe it to be the best thing since sliced bread. Right now I come down on the skeptical side of opinion.
  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @05:38AM (#2646761)
    As far as I can see, it's designed to make you fall over when you hit the brakes. Either that or you just go ahead and plough into that old granny at 20mph anyway[1].

    Copenhagen airport has push scooters, you see people whizzing up and down the the airport. Very weird.

    [1] Grannies are 50 points you know.
  • by orbitalia ( 470425 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @05:45AM (#2646777) Homepage
    You may or may not be aware that this 'personal electric vehicle' idea has been carried out before. It caused the loss of a great computer company in the UK (Sinclair , remember them, the Spectrum, QL etc). This was back in 1985
    Sir Clive came up with an invention way ahead of its time, called the C5.

    See here [sinclairc5.co.uk] for details and pictures!

    It was an outstanding failure, mainly due to safety concerns on busy roads. It caused the downfall of Sinclair and massive personal debts to Sir Clive (brilliant man)

    Prepare to be underwhelmed. Strange how these things go in cycles.
    • However, compared to the Sinclair C5, the Segway does have quite a few advantages:

      1. The footprint of Segway is probably less than 20% of a C5 on the road.

      2. Unlike the C5, the Segway has an effective turning radius of ZERO. That makes the scooter far easier to manuever in very tight spaces.

      3. The Segway--as technology improves--could be designed so the whole thing folds down to probably less space taken than most folding bicycles. That means it can be schlepped through public transit systems without the major hassles you get of trying to get a regular bicycle through public transit systems (you can't carry them on buses unless the bus has bike racks, you have prohibition of carrying bikes on subway and commuter trains at certain hours and stations, etc.).
    • I think you've answered the question above; "Is this the Palm or the Newton?"

      Now that I've seen some footage of the device in action I can say that it looks very promising. It's going to struggle because of the way the car has affected the lay of the land, but there will be many people just the right distance from work (or whatever) that could use this. The main advantage: no effort means you can wear a suit. A bike is great, if you don't mind showering and getting changed once you're at work.

      Finally, those worried about the cost -- try doing some figures on how much your car costs you to run -- it'll probably pay for itself in 2 years. And for those worried about putting it somewhere -- how much does your car cost you to park all day? Sure, we'd need some locker-like infrastructure, but propertly prices are such that car bays are just becoming too expensive for what they are.

  • by TheMonkeyDepartment ( 413269 ) on Monday December 03, 2001 @10:04AM (#2647342)
    Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer got on them and zipped around for a few minutes.

    It's fucking cool, OK?

    So, all you naysayers out there asking questions like "how does this replace a bicycle?" or "how does it corner?" Maybe you should have waited to see!

    First, these things look fucking MANUVERABLE. They turn on a dime. If you're stationary, and you turn the handlebars, you can do a stationary 360 if you want. Try THAT on a bike. While Dean Kamen was being interviewed, he was standing there idling, kind of casually rolling back and forth.

    Several times, Kamen took his hands completely off the handlebars and continued along. The platform kept perfect balance and kept going straight.

    Gibson picked it up faster than Sawyer, and Sawyer almost fell off hers once (she forgot what she was doing and panicked, I think, half-leaping from the platform as it rolled towards the crowd). But by the end of the first commercial break, they had both mastered it, and were zipping all around the plaza with speed and aplomb.

    They put speed-limits on the newscasters' units, but Kamen's unit was fully unregulated and looked like it could really move fast. (Imagine the disaster if either of those newscasters had suffered an injury on live television on the very first demonstration!)

    Some other demonstrators ran an obstacle course, including ramps, rocks, shallow steps (nothing like a staircase, but at least 2 inches high), and yes indeed, water. One of the demonstrators even did a stationary 360 while stopped on the middle of the ramp. It was freaky looking. He rotated around, became diagonal, then straightened out and the thing didn't budge.

    Guys, this thing looks really cool. It is time for you to give this thing the props it deserves. If you still want to knock it, fine, but remember: the "hype" attached with this thing came from totally unrealistic expectations and wild speculation, fueled in part by Slashdot reader comments.
    • Forget hype. I have no problem with deserved hype. see apple commercial with hammer.
      I can go 15 miles or more on my bike, try that on this.
      A can zip between cars on a bike.
      this thing is more dangerous in a collision. If I get hit by a car on my bike, I go on top of the car, you get hit on this and you'll go under the car.
      My bike is pratical on the street, this is not(too wide) that means you'll be on the sidewalk, with pedestrians, that means a) you'll be travelling the same speed as the walker, b)bigger foor print.c)laibility when you injure some one by running over their foot.
      2 inch step? haha, geet the thing to go over a standard curb, or it immediatly become more of a hassle for the user.
      I can not stress this enough, crowds. it is too big for crowds.
      If he made it skate board shaped, it would be far more practical.

"If the code and the comments disagree, then both are probably wrong." -- Norm Schryer