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A Killer App For Segway 277

cameronk writes "The NYT reports that Segway is developing a growing popularity with people who are mobility-impaired. My 94 year-old grandfather is too proud to use a wheelchair, yet too fragile to walk. The Segway seems like an ideal way for him to maneuver about."
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A Killer App For Segway

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  • by erick99 ( 743982 ) <homerun@gmail.com> on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:07PM (#10531808)
    I don't know if Segway's lobbyist makes comments about the Segway not being intended as a device for the disabled in order to facilitate his task of getting governments to approve it's use on sidewalks. This is apparently a very controversial issue in many cities. To read about the sidewalk and pedestrian issues as well as Segway attempting to put down pedestrians fears that the sidewalks will be take over by Segway-riding disabled people, read more here:Segway or the Highway [citypaper.net].
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:30PM (#10531975)
      But the Segway was originally a spinoff from wheelchair research. (They wanted to make an all-terrain chair that could safely negotiate stairs.) While a Segway "as is" might not be marketed as a medical device, I think the original four-wheel self-balancing chair is still a great idea.

      And it would be political death to suggest that handicapped people couldn't have four wheel wheelchairs, no matter how fast, cool or fun they look.

    • of course if the segway becomes a device for the disabled, there can be no law to stop their usage on sidewalks, or even inside malls, as the American with Disabilities Act would prevent that. In the USA at least.

      Seems that thing has an unwieldy failure mode IMHO.
      • You're thinking too small. If it becomes a device for the disabled, the government will start paying for them.
      • of course if the segway becomes a device for the disabled, there can be no law to stop their usage on sidewalks, or even inside malls,

        Wonder how it compares with motorised wheelchairs and cars. Which, if nothing else, tend to take up more space.
      • if the segway becomes a device for the disabled, there can be no law to stop their usage on sidewalks, or even inside malls, as the American with Disabilities Act would prevent that.

        By this logic, any disabled person with a specially adapted car would be legally entitled to drive it through crowds of pedestrians. Maybe I give the US legal system too much credit, but I find it hard to believe they have drifted quite that far from sanity.

    • Competition for space on sidewalks will continue to be an issue while there is a perception that riding anything (including bicycles) in the streets in urban areas is dangerous.

      I have mitochondrial myopathy (see MDA [mdausa.org] and UMDF [umdf.org]) and started using a three-wheel electric scooter in January 2000 after a major setback from catching the flu. My equipment has a dial that you can set for maximum speed, so it is much easier to match the pace of pedestrian traffic than if you ride a bike. Does anyone know of you can
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:08PM (#10531817)
    • by xs650 ( 741277 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:30PM (#10531976)
      A 94 year old is almost as likely to fall off his Segway as Bush. The difference is that Bush is physically fit (although not fiscally or mentally fit). A fall from higher than normal standing height could be real serious for a 94 year old. A Segway for gramps is real bad idea, for him and for other people on the sidewalk.

      When I die, I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather did, not terrified like his passengers did.
    • Err wasn't the reason he fell off was because he forgot to turn the thing on!
  • by menscher ( 597856 ) <[menscher+slashdot] [at] [uiuc.edu]> on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:08PM (#10531823) Homepage Journal
    What about using a cane? Worked for my grandfater....
    • Canes seem to be a simple solution. Unfortunately canes, especially those not set at the correct height, can cause the user to lean on them. This causes straining in the lower back muscles and vertebrae. Plus, it's a crutch of sorts, and there's just something unnatural about using a third leg as a solution to immobility. I'd like to see the studies that show what the long-term usage of canes and other such non-natural support apparati actually do to the human musculoskeletal system.

      The Segway, on the
  • Not a good idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chrispyman ( 710460 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:09PM (#10531827)
    Wasn't there a case awhile back were a Segway, if low on battery power, would cause the rider to fall flat on their face? While it's bad, I could see this turning very bad when there's a handicapped rider.
    • Re:Not a good idea (Score:4, Informative)

      by BurritoWarrior ( 90481 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:18PM (#10531886)
      That issue has been fixed.
    • Re:Not a good idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:18PM (#10531887) Journal
      I immediately thought of this too. Plus, there's the collision factor: an elderly person who isn't too steady and who has slower reaction times than the norm is more likely to hit an obstacle that suddenly appears in his path and/or fall off as a result of the resulting sudden stop.

      On top of all that, the Segway requires that the operator be standing whilst in use. The endurance that this requires might not be a problem for the average individual but it becomes a factor for elderly users. Remember, we're talking about who already have mobility issues, so these are legitimate concerns.

      Frankly, if it was my relative I'd encourage them to use a powered chair, the kind that are more like one-man golf-carts than the kind that look like wheelchairs. They'd be more comfortable and easier to operate in the long run, capable of carrying things more easily and probably more reliable too.
      • . Plus, there's the collision factor: an elderly person who isn't too steady and
        who has slower reaction times than the norm is more likely to...


        Keep in mind that the alternative is for them to get in a 2,000lb automobile and drive it instead. Given that, I think free Segways for everyone over 75 would be a good investment...

      • Re:Not a good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

        by madfgurtbn ( 321041 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:50PM (#10532077)
        Frankly, if it was my relative I'd encourage them to use a powered chair

        There are millions of people with impaired mobility who are not so impaired that they need to use a chair. Segway gives those persons a nice means of getting around.

        Plus, there's the collision factor: an elderly person who isn't too steady and who has slower reaction times than the norm is more likely to hit an obstacle that suddenly appears in his path and/or fall off as a result of the resulting sudden stop.


        Well, yeah. Any type of transportation should match the person's physical condition and the user should exercise judgment and care in it's use. Why is this specific to the Segway?

        Segway appears to be a great way for mildly disabled persons to get around. It's sorta halfway between walking and a wheelchair. Highly maneuverable, with a greater range and lower cost than a wheelchair.
      • "I immediately thought of this too. Plus, there's the collision factor: an elderly person who isn't too steady and who has slower reaction times than the norm is more likely to hit an obstacle that suddenly appears in his path and/or fall off as a result of the resulting sudden stop."

        Two words: Farmer's Market

      • Plus, there's the collision factor: an elderly person who isn't too steady and who has slower reaction times than the norm is more likely to hit an obstacle

        PLUS there's the eyesight factor. I think it's a brilliant idea for old people with failing eyesight to zip around at 18 mph. Riiiight....

        Interesting fact: [merck.com] the lens in the eye never stops growing. So the older you are, the thicker and more opaque your lenses are. Plus your retinas are less sensitive. The result: a 60 year old's retina only picks
        • Re:Not a good idea (Score:2, Informative)

          by Forbman ( 794277 )
          Well, this is contrary to the article in this month's SciAm, which goes into some detail about the cells of the eye lens being somewhat special in that they are nucleated when you are young, but eventually the nucleons die, but the cell itself doesn't. As the cells age, the goo inside the cell changes and gets cloudy and more rigid. But there is not new cell growth or replacement in the eye lens.
    • Re:Not a good idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by brxndxn ( 461473 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:21PM (#10531908)
      My grandma died after complications from a broken hip ~ 3 years hospital stay, infections, never fully recovered..

      My grandpa, a few years later, died from complications from a broken hip (slipped on the snow).

      I really don't think a Segway is the best answer for old people or even fat people for that matter. Ya, it's a cute little machine that looks like fun - but it takes a certain amount of balance to use and from the way people stand, it's about as forgiving as a bicycle when you fall off of it or the batteries get low.

      Every time I see the Segway in use on campus, it makes me glad I'm one of the people that still thinks walking isn't half bad.
      • Re:Not a good idea (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bobdotorg ( 598873 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @11:51PM (#10532347)
        My grandma died after complications from a broken hip ~ 3 years hospital stay, infections, never fully recovered..
        My grandpa, a few years later, died from complications from a broken hip (slipped on the snow).
        I really don't think a Segway is the best answer for old people...


        On a daily basis my 93 year old grandmother weaves in and out of heavy traffic on PCH while flipping off SUV cell phoners going 30 in the left lane. She took up motorcycling a few years back after she was in the hospital for a month with a broken femur from falling off a Segway.

        So buy 'em Harley, and let them go out in style. And with none of that suffer in fo months in a hospital crap.
    • Yeah.

      What about the speed of these things? Do you really want grandma scooting around at around 20mph among pedestrians? It sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen.


      • Do you really want grandma scooting around at around 20mph among pedestrians?


        Chances are that "grandma" spends some of her time driving around at 65mph* on the freeway, which is much more dangerous, but we let her do that anyway.

        (* Ok.. maybe 45...)

        • Not always. At least drivers on the highway are alert and expecting people to do stupid things in cars. That's why my car has 4 airbags and heavy side-impact beams.

          A car also doesn't have the problem of crashing/accelerating madly/or turning abruptly when you lose your balance since you are in a seated position.

          Personally, I would suggest taking a spin on a Segway before buying into the "perfect" scooter idea. They work well, but it is rather easy to bust on one if you aren't on your game.
      • I don't like the idea of anyone scooting on a crowded sidewalk at 20 mph. I encountered one of these guys in Atlanta. It doesn't matter how maneuvable the webset says they are, he wasn't getting out of anyone's way. It was everyone else jumping out of his way. If they moved at pedestrian speed, fine, but this guy belonged in bike lane.
    • Re:Not a good idea (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:36PM (#10532004)
      The guy who home-built a Segway has this problem (there was a slashdot article on it a while back.) But "normal" Segways gracefully shut down as soon as battery power drops to near the levels required to safely keep balance.

      Like anything else, even a failsafe can fail. It's possible that a chip went bad, or a battery internally shorted near the low limit of the safe charge level, or any number of other problems.

      Besides, the progenitor to the Segway is a four-wheel ATV model that was designed to be a smarter stair climbing wheelchair. If they get them approved as medical devices, with all four wheels on the ground it's likely to be as safe as any other electric wheelchair.

      • I also mr Bush several times that he shouldn't home-build a Segway (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2989000.stm). But once again he wouldn't listen.
    • by mm0mm ( 687212 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @11:00PM (#10532124)
      Wasn't there a case awhile back were a Segway, if low on battery power, would cause the rider to fall flat on their face?

      Solution: Airbag-featured Segway

  • balance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 54v4g3 ( 756080 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:09PM (#10531828)
    most elderly don't have very good balance. does riding a segway require any?

    if it does, then that would not be a good choice of transportation for older people

    -----

    visit my website! nuk3.l2p.net [l2p.net]
    • Re:balance (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Milik ( 633804 )
      I think segway does reqire ability to stand up straigh. while it seems to be a simple task a lot of people, George W Bush is an example, can loose their balance while standing straigh. For senior falling from eleveated surface mens that s/he will spend next few month indoors. Segway for seniors has to be modified with larger, and more stable, gyroscopes and be less prone to tip overs.
      • Re:balance (Score:5, Informative)

        by madfgurtbn ( 321041 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:37PM (#10532012)
        modified with larger, and more stable, gyroscopes

        My understanding is that there are no mechanical gyroscopes in a Segway. The Segway is balanced dynamically; the computer senses forward or backward motion, acceleration, center of gravity, etc., and maintains verticality by rapidly and almost imperceptibly turning the wheels to counteract tipping forces.

        GWB tried to get on when the thing was not turned on. See http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/technolog y/maney/2003-06-17-segway_x.htm
        • Solid-state gyros, no less. One of many exiting new bits of tech coming soon to a store near you!
        • My understanding is that there are no mechanical gyroscopes in a Segway.

          Laser gyroscopes are used on aircraft for INS (probably with mechanical backups). So there's no reason for a recently developed machine not to use solid state systems.
    • Re:balance (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:47PM (#10532056)
      "most elderly don't have very good balance."

      Ah, but is it their sense of balance that's off, or their body's ability to compensate for it? You can know you're falling and still not be able to stop yourself.
    • Re:balance (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lpangelrob2 ( 721920 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @11:10PM (#10532170) Journal
      I took a Segway for a quick five minute spin once, and I can definitely tell you -- I hope grandpa wears a helmet while he's trying this thing, or he may have an untimely meeting with the sidewalk. :-)

      A lot of people seem to think that the Segway balances for you, and that's half-true. But it's honestly like riding a bike. It's easy enough to ride once you know how to ride it... until then, it's really quite frightening. My biggest problem was that my body would do what it naturally would do if it were off-kilter; it would compensate by leaning in the opposite direction I was falling. Of course, the Segway would do the exact same thing, and for a while I was holding on while the Segway and my body were fighting each other for balance. When you finally learn to trust the damn machine, it starts working for you.

      The other thing is learning that the hand you used to use to flip the windshield wipers in a car... now is used to turn your vehicle. That's just kind of weird, and is part of the learning process.

      Anyways, those were the experiences of a healthy, well-balanced 22 year old. If anyone in the retirement community can verify these experiences, please do so!

    • by EtherAlchemist ( 789180 ) on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:23AM (#10532495)

      A person's inability to balance was one of the driving reasons behind the Segway. The technology in the Segway started in the Ibot, nicked Fred Upstairs (after Fred Astaire, hence "Ginger") that was a 4 wheel, self-balancing device for people that would replace wheelchairs. It was able to climb up and downstairs, which is something otherwise chair-bound folk could not do. It had potnetial for people with all sorts of mobility limitations.

      From the Segway site:

      "One day Dean Kamen saw a young man in a wheelchair struggling to get over a curb. He thought about it, and realized that the problem wasn't ineffective wheelchairs, it was that the world was built for people who could balance. So he and his team created the Independence IBOT (TM) Mobility System, a self-balancing mobility device that enables users to climb stairs and negotiate sand, rocks, and curbs. But restoring balance also accomplished something even more dramatic--it elevated them on two wheels, so they could see the world at eye level. If balancing technology could provide such benefits to people who couldn't walk, what could it do for people with full mobility?"

      So, at least the company started out with good intentions (and they may still have them) but funny how you don't see a lot of disabled people using them.
      • So, at least the company started out with good intentions (and they may still have them) but funny how you don't see a lot of disabled people using them.

        They can still market to disabled people, just not as a medical device. Getting governent approval to market it as a medical device would open up quite a few cans of worms. It isn't the device itself, it is also that it would be required to comply with a whole slew of laws for handicapped and disabled. They can still use viral marketing, let existing c

    • Re:balance (Score:3, Informative)

      by JohnsonWax ( 195390 )
      Yes, it requires balance.

      I've ridden a Segway, and it requires subtle balance and reflexes, which is what the elderly tend to not have. The Segway eliminates gross motor skills - so you don't need to be strong - but you do need to make very subtle adjustments frequently, and having poor balance would be disastrous.

      Anyone tried a Segway after a few (good) beers - that should be a decent test, actually.
  • Just wait till the Segway runs out of juice while Grannie is going to the Kountry Kitchen. Lassie might have to tell Timmy that Grannie fell over because she forgot to plug it back into the wall.

    Ok... they aren't safe operating cars... so how is a Segway any different? I think it would be worse because at least you have a car protecting you when Grannie hits ya.
    • I dunno about you, but I'd rather she hit me with a Segway then a car...
    • If we ignore how momentum and force work, then you're right.

      Unfortunately for those worried about Segway collisions, the whole thing weighs a lot less than a car, or even most motorcycles.

      i wouldn't want Grannie in a car at all if she can ride in a Segway, since the Segway's less likely to cripple me when it hits. Just pass a few laws stating that the Segway belongs on the sidewalks, and that's that. It's not like anyone's going to spend $5000 on a non-approved mobility device which requires you to stay
  • Hmmm. (Score:2, Insightful)

    Too frail to walk, but not too frail to crash?

    Sounds more like to bored to walk.
  • by spacerodent ( 790183 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:11PM (#10531845)
    I would love to have seen the look on the faces of the people who orignally claimed segway was everything from cold fusion to Ai when they saw the stupid scooter.
  • by yerdaddie ( 313155 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:11PM (#10531848) Homepage
    If you're talking about 94-year old folks, I'm not sure if you want to bill something as the "killer app."
  • by Dr. Ion ( 169741 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:13PM (#10531865)
    The dynamic-balancing technology was licensed (by DEKA) to Johnson & Johnson first, for use on the iBot and any other medical applications.

    J&J retains the rights to *all* medical applications.

    So Segway has to specifically market it as a non-medical device and never seek FDA approval of any kind because then J&J could step in and make a ruckus.

    In fact, if it can be shown that the Segway is largely used by disabled/mobility-impaired people, bad things could happen to Segway LLC.

    I keep seeing people chastising Segway for not persuing the disabled market, but these are the facts. Even if they wanted to go through the lengthy and expensive medical review process, they simply can not because of their business arrangement.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:54PM (#10532096)
      thanks for this explaination, makes more sense now;

      I am not old, well, not terminally so, but crippled nonetheless; I walk with crutches, don't have a very good balance, and am quite limited in the distance I can walk confortably; a wheelchair is not really an option; it took me long enough to get rid off the darn thing and it has other limitations (despites ADA and all that, few places are really accessible, and standing up does have a number of advantages such as physiological (digestion, blood circulation, etc. works better), it opens up bunch of places otherwise not accessible, helps in interacting with other people on an eye to eye level, makes a big difference, etc); electric scooters (three/four wheels, grany style) are pretty limited too (not really practical or manoeverable, just saves a bit of effort), and anything marketed as 'mobility' devices costs more than what most people spend on a car.

      I did get a chance of trying one of these Segways (I just sent them my email and they told me when the next demo was taking place nearby) and was impressed; the Segway guy doing the demo did show me how to get on the thing safely (you know, when/how do you drop the crutches :-) and it took me no time to be quite mobile and reasonably proficient with the thing, including going backward, tight corners, etc. quite a bit of fun actually, not to mention going forward standing up at speed I haven't experienced since last time I was able to run; Balance was not an issue somewhat surprisingly, and I felt quite safe on the thing. Range is a tad limited, but still a lot more than what I can confortably walk, so this would not really be an issue;

      The thing though is that 5 grand (at the time) was a bit steep so I passed on the idea;

      Anyway, the Segway could never be marketted as a device 'for the disable'; to do so, they'd have to make it a lot heavier, and bulkier, limit the range further, add a lot of chrome, look at wheelchairs and crutches, chrome everywhere, that's what the likes of them like I tell you, gimps gear has to be heavy and shiny, replace the batteries with the electric wheelchair kind (that leak acid, don't last long and cost a lot more), modify the look so that no 'normal' person would ever want to be seen even dead riding one (though some on this forum might argue that this is already the case:) and of course double/triple the price; nothing short of that could possibly satisfy the FDA.

  • by tcd004 ( 134130 ) * on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:15PM (#10531871) Homepage
    Best segway campaign ever. [lostbrain.com]

    tcd004
  • by lakiolen ( 785856 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:19PM (#10531891)
    Just wait untill there are gangs of partially disabled senior citizens roving around in packs forcing everyone else off the sidewalk, not caring who or what they run into and/or over. And then there's the Segway Centar [segway.com] which can only lead to who knows what kind of shenanigans.
  • Too proud?? haha (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    More like "stubborn". There is nothing wrong with a wheelchair. The problem is with the old man's head.
  • Um (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wicka_wicka ( 679279 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:21PM (#10531907)
    Wouldn't the old people still have to stand for extended periods of time?
    • Re:Um (Score:2, Insightful)

      by c4miles ( 249464 )
      Well, yes, but for some old folks, it's not so much the standing as the constant balance compensation. This is why my Gran, fr'instance, can stand for 15 minutes with sticks, but only a few seconds without, due to a recent hip replacement. Another friend of mine takes a wild array of painkillers because chronic back pain. Even so, walking can still painful, some days more so than others.

      Since the segway has hand-grips in a natural position, this extended standing you mention should be less of a problem tha
  • More specifically (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nwbvt ( 768631 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:23PM (#10531918)
    People who are mobility-impaired, too proud to use a wheel chair, not too proud to use a Segway, rich enough to purchase the overpriced gadget, and who won't need to go anywhere that a Segway cannot get to (I don't know for sure, but while they are laws requiring places to be wheelchair accessible, I doubt most store owners would be happy having people driving those things in their stores).

    Thats probably not that big of a niche.

  • Enabling in the sense that it enables laziness. Rather than being forced to get some exercise, people are told to get a "scooter". It's a powered wheelchair. A scooter is a skateboard with handlebars.

    For the genuinely disabled, a wheelchair is the difference between thriving and rotting. Most Segway ownere I see are just too lazy to do their own walking.

    I see a lot of obese grandmothers, age 55, riding around on these things with their nose in the air, and I remember something I heard an old Irish coun
    • I'm an idiot. Must get some sleep now. And I've got to lay off the sauce. I wrote the parent thinking about those stupid powered carts they call "scooters", but are just powered wheelchairs.

      Sorry for wasting bandwidth.
    • by MoggyMania ( 688839 ) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:27AM (#10532735) Homepage Journal
      There are also a *lot* of disabilities that make it possible to stand but extremely tiring to walk, and one can certainly be "genuinely" disabled without having a severe mobility impairment! Saying the technology that helps people like that is just "enabling" them to be "lazy" is revoltingly uninformed.

      One simple example would be multiple sclerosis. Somebody with MS can be *completely* disabled considerably before they lose the ability to walk, and in fact often never lose it completely. Small amounts of activity can tire them out, so having something like a motorized wheelchair makes the difference between being able to do one short activity before needing to go to bed for the day, and being able to lead something resembling a "good" life. There are many other disorders with the same effect as well.

      Some disorders also require sporadic treatment with drugs (like prednisolone) that can cause massive (usually short-term) weight gain. Other times, it becomes a matter of being so impaired on a daily basis that something as simple as taking a shower is a struggle that requires a nap afterwards. It's not surprising that people unable to gather enough energy to do more than shower would ultimately gain weight, especially if they are also put on one of the meds that causes tissue swelling.

      I'm not saying all cases are like this. I'm sure that there are people that choose not to exercise, refuse to eat right, and really are just using scooters because they're overweight. But don't go around slamming all people using motorized scooters or similar for being "lazy" when you have no idea how many have a legitimate illness that makes their everyday lives harder than you can even *imagine* life being.
  • Global destablization? [google.ca] I don't think I'd put Grandma Milly on one of these...
  • by smr2x ( 266420 )
    Clicky [google.com].

    Then click the link from there.

  • by gruntled ( 107194 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:36PM (#10532002)
    Not too elderly friend of mine (he's 64) and his wife rented Segways in DC. Now, just so you know he's not a complete klutz, he and his wife go dancing several nights a week. So, he's on this thing for less than 15 minutes, drops his left wheel off the curb, and is thrown a good four feet into the street. Helmet on, otherwise would have smashed his skull against the pavement. As it was, narrowly avoided being run over by a car, had a dandy and debilitating bruise over much of his left hip, and has no interest in ever getting on one again.
    • by jht ( 5006 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @11:01PM (#10532126) Homepage Journal
      For some reason, I'm not shocked by that...

      Seriously, Segways aren't glued to the ground. Just because they can maneuver easily on the road or sidewalk doesn't mean you can take them anywhere at all without paying attention to what you're doing. If you radically shift the center of balance to one side, you risk toppling over. The gyros take care of front-to-back motion and basic instability, but but if you do something like drive a single wheel off a curb laterally, two things will almost certainly happen:

      1 - your center of gravity will suddenly find itself moved to the outside of the wheel.

      2 - you'll topple over.

      Even though Segways are easy to ride and inherently very safe, they still require smart and careful operation to stay that way. Your friend's accident, from how you describe it, had nothing to do with agility and everything to do with careless riding. If he kept his wheel away from the curb, there would have been no problem.

      I do hope he has recovered from the accident, and if he ever tries to ride one again he simply needs to mind the terrain. As for me, I do not own a Segway, but it's high on the list of Things To Get If I Ever Have A Major Windfall. Or if the price ever drops under $1500 or so - my office is about 5 miles away in the next town, and I could easily make the trip with one most days.
      • by really? ( 199452 ) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:38AM (#10532798)
        Wouldn't getting a bicycle be a better option? If you are TOTALLY out of shape get one of the ones that have some power assist (for example http://store.nycewheels.com/honstepcomel.html), and use the assist as necessary. Unless you have a real physical debility I think you'd find yourself getting off the power assist bike to a regular bike in no time flat.

        Not meaning to be critical ... chacun à son goût, and all that.
  • by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:37PM (#10532007)
    Seeing as a Segway can fall over, a person of limited mobility would be better off with a more stable platform. A wide stance 3 wheel (2F/1R) would be a lot more stable, even standing.

    And without the fancy gyros needed, it could be built a lot cheaper.

    • A wide stance 3 wheel (2F/1R) would be a lot more stable, even standing.

      No way, not standing. Not unless you're talking about a reaalllly wide (and long) stance that would make it unmaneuverable.

      Segways don't usually fall unless something goes dramatically wrong. I would argue that many elderly people would be far more likely to fall walking than when cautiously riding a Segway.
      • I would argue that many elderly people would be far more likely to fall walking than when cautiously riding a Segway.

        I've got to agree, and the article seems to indicate users find it more comfortable to stand while getting around rather than sitting in a wheelchair. If you're stuck sitting without much ability to shift around, it gets painful after awhile. Old people have trouble walking, that's not the same as standing. Standing you can just, well, stand there. But walking is much more complicated, you'
  • I think this is a good thing; some people lose mobility because they're not so immobile that they couldn't use something like this, but they are either too proud/vain/in denial/whatever to use a traditional wheelchair/electric scooter (of the disabled variety), or they can't afford the lifestyle (Buy a scooter? How are you going to get it in your car to get to work, or the grocery store or whatever). A car with a wheelchair lift costs $45,000+, but it's much easier to put a Segway in a non-adapted car.
    • by magefile ( 776388 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:42PM (#10532035)
      Don't forget, the gyroscope-stabilization tech used in the Segway was originally developed for the iBot [cbsnews.com], an electric wheelchair. The iBot is nice because it raises you to a height where you're at eye level (trust me, you don't miss it 'till it's gone) and is able to climb stairs and curbs. The downside? It costs around $30,000 - and, as I mentioned in the parent, getting a car that it (or any other wheelchair) can be loaded in without help in is incredibly expensive.
  • by DLR ( 18892 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <lahtnesorld>> on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:45PM (#10532050) Journal
    ...I'd love to take a Segway, 1 or 2 deep cycle marine batteries, a mini-ITX system and Voila! instant robot*, just add appendages.

    *(with 2 years of software development time, not for use around the frail or infirm, your electric bill may show unexpected increases, void where prohibited, your milage may vary, not responsible for reactions of household pets, not responsible if you install optional Death Ray appendage)

  • by jmcmunn ( 307798 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:48PM (#10532063)

    I have had the luck of actually being able to ride on one of these for about 10 minutes about a year ago. They are incredibly easy to use once you get used to trusting it....however...I would not recommend getting it for anyone who has trouble walking up steps, or has a bad sense of balance.

    I found it a bit tricky to get on at first, because unless you're pretty careful, the thing tends to start moving before you're ready for it. Also, it really doesn't take much to get it to move forward or backward, so not having a good sense of balance once on it could send you in directions you're not expecting.

    Don't get me wrong, I loved riding the thing and I think after an hour or two of riding and steering it around I could have mastered the thing. But I am 25 years old, and have a decent sense of balance. It was not a problem for me to control. The thing is very heavy though, and once you're off and the motors are disengaged it is very tricky to load in a vehicle or "park" in the corner.

    Perhaps not the best thing for an elderly person. A walker or a cane, or even a wheelchair would be more suitable, not to mention that all three of those things are welcome inside most places (I have yet to see a Segway driving through the grocery store). But for a younger disabled person who has strength to control it and deal with moving it around it could mean a whole new life and way of getting around.

    I would love to buy one of these, it would pay itself off in a week just charging for rides!
  • by SuperRob ( 31516 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:50PM (#10532075) Homepage
    The Segway's technology was adapted from wheelchairs that can raise up on two wheels for better mobility. It's what the technology was originally intended for, and the Segway really wasn't that large a departure from it.

    As far as I'm concerned, anything that can take away some of the stigma of a wheelchair for those that can still stand, is a great thing.
  • Lawyers (Score:4, Informative)

    by erick99 ( 743982 ) <homerun@gmail.com> on Thursday October 14, 2004 @10:59PM (#10532118)
    Maybe Segway would prefer not to have this certified as medical devices because lawyers are salivating over the lawsuit potential. This is an ad from the home page of a law firm:

    Accidents, injuries, and deaths arising from this new mobility product are inevitable. At Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., we stay at the forefront of new litigation. Our personal injury lawyers are prepared to handle any case that may arise as a result of a Segway accident.

    You can read the rest here [dsslaw.com]

    They even have a picture of the Segway on the page and details about how the Segway works. Their "motto" is We stay at the forefront of New Litigation."

  • Saw this last summer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shut_up_man ( 450725 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @11:02PM (#10532132) Homepage
    I saw an old guy cruising around a big park in Vancouver on a Segway. He was having a pretty good time, since he could move through the crowd much easier than if he was in a wheelchair. He even had a yappy dog in the front bucket of the Segway, that was also having a ball. I can see how it would work for older people, particularly as motorized wheelchairs cost thousands of bucks anyway [1800wheelchair.com].
  • by Socket Scientist ( 777417 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @11:04PM (#10532141)
    In my town of 6,000 there is exactly one Segway. It's owned by a 90-year old. He uses it to travel from his home to the centre of town (about a three-mile trip each way) every day.

    For the record he's thin as a rail and still has reasonable mobility, although he could never walk this distance daily. The Segway's replacing a car in this case ... and affording the old sport a far more sociable experience than a car ever could.

    I think it's safe to say that most folks in my town would be very puzzled by the anti-Segway sentiments on Slashdot.

  • Niche crazy! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dj245 ( 732906 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @11:09PM (#10532166) Homepage
    So the person is disabled enough to warrant some kind of mechanical mobility aid, yet they can stand for lengthy periods at a time, while maintaining balance on a moving two-wheeled vehicle. Sure the segway will try to keep you upright, but if you are subjected to significant forces and are disabled to boot you'll fall off. Sounds like a niche within a niche.

    Sometimes 2 wheels are better. But for disabled people I would go with 3 or more.

  • by photon317 ( 208409 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @11:40PM (#10532302)

    What a great idea for a fragile old man who has trouble walking - stick him standing up on a gyro-balanced thing that walks faster than we ever could and hope he doesn't manage to fall off.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) * on Friday October 15, 2004 @12:08AM (#10532430)
    There seem to be a lot of people here who have never ridden a Segway but are quite comfy voicing opinions on how safe it is and how we should keep the elderly off them - no sense in letting them have any fun!

    First, they addressed that low battery tipping thing early on, now I bleieve they have a number of warnings and I think it also slows to a halt if the battery gets too low.

    Secondly they have a power-assist mode so they can scoot themselves up curbs and over into corners even when you're not on them.

    Thirdly you can go as slow as you like - but at least you have the option to go faster. The Segway would give you a much more practical range than a wheelchair as it can go faster where it is safe to, and also fits more places than a wheelchair does.

    When I'm 90 (or 190) I know which I would prefer if I need some assitance getting around.
  • Using a mobility device to give mobility challenged people mobility. Gee, how fucking novel. Patent, anyone?
  • I'm not sure if that punt was intended or not, but I'm sure with this headline in the news, it'll be a bit harder to convince those senior citicens to get on one of those!
  • Let's do it!!!" -Homer Simpson
  • Anyone remember the story of his Segway crash? Take a look at http://www.google.com/search?q=Bush+segway&ie=UTF- 8&oe=UTF-8 [google.com] to jog your memory.

    So, I wouldn't call it a wheelchair replacement. Despite the machine's clinical look, a walker still might be a better choice.
  • "too proud to use a wheelchair..."

    That's not pride... *True* pride is using whatever resources are available to lead life to its fullest, without feeling ashamed to show others we are different. It is a *lack* of pride that would lead a person to restrict his/her enjoyment of life and visibility in public for fear "normal" people see their differences.

    (Speaking here as a disabled but not mobility-impaired person, that uses technology to its fullest as I need to lead my life. If others think I'm somehow
  • by pair-a-noyd ( 594371 ) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:30AM (#10532752)
    (recovering from spinal fusion surgery) I would love to have one of these. Walking is painful and difficult and I can only walk short distances before I have to stop and let the pain subside. I really could use assistance getting around.
    I can't walk my dog, shop, or much of anything else without a *lot* of pain.
    But, I despise those little electric carts. It's personally humiliating and embarrassing to me to have to use them.
    But I can't walk around super wally world, no way. One of these, if I could afford one, would be much better.

    My only real fear would be taking a spill and blowing out my $100,000 titanium hardware store.

    And I would be concerned about older folks, like those in their 70's and up dumping out and breaking some bones. These things COULD be dangerous. Just ask DuMbya.....

  • Look out below! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Friday October 15, 2004 @01:51AM (#10532864) Homepage Journal
    Until he falls and breaks his hip. If you can't do the shuffle, don't do the hustle.
  • by LauraScudder ( 670475 ) on Friday October 15, 2004 @02:04AM (#10532922) Journal
    My friend's Dad had a bad case of polio as a kid and has a rough limp because of it. He doesn't need a cane or anything, but there is no such thing as a walk for leisure/scenery etc. Then they bought a couple of Segways so that he could go with wife or one of the kids on rides around the neighborhood and through local parks. Of course, his kids also like taking them off-roading in said locales, but for the first time in fifty-odd years he can go out for a spin around the park without a painful limp. Good thing they aren't illegal on his sidewalks.
  • But not too proud to look like a complete and utter twat?

    Weird.

  • I think you meant, finally an app, period, for the blasted thing ...

  • Medical Pricing? (Score:3, Informative)

    by filmguru ( 710596 ) on Friday October 15, 2004 @09:11AM (#10534873)
    At $4.5K a shot, Segways are already ridiculously priced. Imagine the markup on them once the insurance industry labels them as "medical equipment." I paid just over $2K for my last wheelchair (ultra light, but not a sports model), for which insurance paid just slightly more than half. I would hate to think of the elderly or moderately disabled paying $6-8K for a Segway while we foot the bill through increased medical insurance premiums and higher Medicare costs.

  • by TheSync ( 5291 ) on Friday October 15, 2004 @10:46AM (#10535852) Journal
    I've seen the disabled woman who rides the DC Metrorail who used a Segway until it was banned [nbc4.com], which I think is sad.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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