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Germany

Hop on for a Smooth Ride

A cross between a bicycle, a scooter and roller blades, this strange contraption could be the answer to mobility needs in overcrowded metropolises around the world.

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Boston Police officers try out the Segway

Hailed by some as a revolution in global transportation and derided by others as "a funny looking lawnmower", the Segway Human Transporter or Segway HT did get exactly what it wanted – a lot of attention in the tech world.

It was unveiled with much fanfare in early December in the United States and is for all practical purposes, an electric two-wheeled "scooter".

Invented by Dean Kamen and his company called DEKA, the Segway weighs 36 kg, travels at a maximum speed of 20 kilometres and has a range of 27 kilometres on a single charge of its battery.

"Ginger" listens to your body

Also known as "Ginger" or "IT", one of the greatest strengths of the Segway HT is its ability to stay upright and preventing its passenger from falling.

All the passenger has to do is to mount the platform that’s about 8 inches off the ground, grasp the handle bars and will himself to go forward and back. No, the scooter doesn’t have extrasensory powers.

How does it do that?

The Segway HT can read your every move thanks to 10 microprocessors, custom-designed software, two batteries and a host of gyroscopes. The data is fed into an onboard computer and processed for the electric-powered engine and wheels.

The result is a sensation of floating on ground. The Segway has no brakes. It’s controlled entirely by the rider’s movements. To slow down, all you have to do is lean back. To stop, you have to lean back further.

Even an imperceptible turn of the head will propel the scooter in the desired direction. The scooter is sensitive to every subtle shifting of the passenger’s body.

The Segway can travel over rough terrain, up low pavements and even up a staircase!

Will it change the world?

Its inventor Dean Kamen envisioned it as a system that’s an extension of the human body. He ambitiously believes that the Segway HT will change the way people will travel in the future.

Unlike cars, he says the Segway HT is safe, non-polluting, efficient and manoeuvrable. And unlike a bicycle, the Segway is sturdy, can mix with trucks on a road and is also much faster. The Segway HT could cut a 30-minute walk into a ten-minute ride.

Dean Kamen is convinced that it could go a long way in the future especially in overpopulated cities such as Shanghai and Tokyo. Kamen imagines a future in which cars will be banned from urban centres to give way to "empowered pedestrians".

Will you look dignified on a Segway?

But though the Segway HT promises a smooth fast ride, it has obvious limitations.

You have to shell out 3,000$ for the fun. And where for instance, would you put your stereo or bag while riding?

Apart from the fact that you can’t sit down during the ride. And admittedly you’d look rather silly arriving at your high-profile work place perched on the Segway HT, your tie blowing across your face!