Timothy Lord: I met up at CES with Ywanne Chen. You might catch a glimpse of her riding around in the background over there. She is here at CES with her father Shane Chen who is the inventor of the device she is riding called the Solowheel. It is a unicycle powered by a battery that can go up to 10 miles. It costs about $1800. There is a new version coming out this year that’s going to cost twice as much, but it has got twice as many wheels. Still basically a unicycle, they are just side by side. She says it can go up a hill as steep as 35 degrees, and then survives just fine in the wet climate of Washington State. Ywanne, we are here at the Inventist booth, and what are we looking at?
Ywanne Chen: We are looking at a Solowheel, which is an automatically balancing electric unicycle. It has gyro sensors in it that it uses to keep itself balanced. So there are three gyro sensors: one to detect roll, one to detect yaw and one for pitch. The one for pitch can tell when it’s leaning forward or backward and that is how it stays upright. It is also how you control it by leaning forward to go faster, lean back to stop or slow down. The other two detect side to side leaning and turning and those are used for the fine tune adjustments that we’ve developed to help you turn.
Timothy: What can you tell me about the history of this product?
Ywanne: Well, my dad, who is the inventor, set out to make the simplest, most minimalistic possible motorized vehicle that you can think of. And so for that he thought; well, all you need is one wheel, no seat, no handlebar, no buttons or switches, so that was the idea.
And he says that it was – okay, he is kind of a serial inventor -- you know, he’s always thinking of things and he says that it was one of his quickest inventions ever to develop. The first one worked and after that it was just tweaking and then it was ready to go.
Timothy: Wow! So how hard is it to ride?
Ywanne: It usually takes about half an hour of practice, _____ kind of like riding a bicycle, it starts out really strange and weird, and then it ends up so easy.
Timothy: It is powered by an internal battery, how much distance does that give you to ride around?
Ywanne: Yeah. It is powered by lithium ion battery. And one charge will go 10 miles, and then it takes an hour to recharge. _______________
Timothy: Okay. So can you ride this on hills?
Ywanne: You can. The motor is very powerful, so it is very good on hills. The steepest hill I tried was actually quite steep for testing purposes and that was I think 35 degrees.
Timothy: Going up a hill, I can understand, how about going down?
Ywanne: Well, when you are on hills, you are supposed to stand the same way you stand when you are walking. So when you walk uphill, you lean forward more; when you walk downhill, you lean backward more and it is really a natural thing. As long as you just keep using your natural sense of balance, it is pretty much not a big deal.
Timothy: Now how much does a unit weigh if you wanted to walk it into your apartment?
Ywanne: It is 25 pounds. So it is light enough that you can go up the stairs, take it into a building, put it into a car, that kind of thing.
Timothy: Now where are these in use now?
Ywanne: People have been buying them for transportation because, believe it not, it gets so easy that you can carry bags, you can pull luggage and they just ride it to work. Of course some people get it for fun too. It’s a lot of fun.
Timothy: Are these available all over the world?
Ywanne: They are. We have been selling them direct from our website, solowheel.com. There are also some distributors in other countries.
Timothy: You are based in sort of a wet part of the world. How does it stand out to the rain?
Ywanne: That is right. Well, Washington State and it does good in rain, it is weather proof, so you can ride on wet earth and you can ride through puddles and things like that.
Timothy: Okay, if people want to learn more about this product, is there any place they should go to learn?