Segway- The Coolest Gadget You Will Want, But Cannot Possibly Need
Dec 14, 2002
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Cool, safe, different, engineering marvel
The Bottom Line: Too impractical for most everyone; a good tool for some industries, but not the general public.
Remember the days when your NASDAQ portfolio was worth more than your toothbrush? Everyone turned to CNBC every chance they had to see how much money they made that day and, consequently, to make stars out of the various personalities. Shortly after the NASDAQ bubble burst and your net worth shrunk faster than AL Roker's belly, CNBC promised that they would soon show us a new invention that "would be affordable and would change the way we live our lives".
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I must admit that the hype worked. I was hooked. I had to see what this "thing" was that would change the way I live my life. Was the internet not the invention that would change the way my generation lived our lives? What about cellular technology, or wireless, or even fake Christmas trees? What is this "thing" that CNBC and all of the other news outlets keep refering to and how could it possibly make such a difference in my life?
The "thing", or "it" as all the media outlets termed it, is now known as the "Segway Human Transporter". No, despite the name, it will place you on the moon or in Jamacia on a moments notice. What it will do is get you from point A to point B.
HOW DO I KNOW ABOUT THE SEGWAY:
I was fortunate enough to participate in one of Segway's marketing blitzes. The company would visit a number of the larger cities around the country and provide demos to some of those with interest. Like I said, the media blitz worked well. I was hooked and had to see what all the buzz was about.
WHAT DOES THIS THING DO:
The life changing aspect of the Segway is that you can now get from point A to point B without: walking, driving, crawling, swimming, flying, running, etc. In other words, the Segway is an alternative to foot transportation and vehicle transportation. You can think of it as a motorized skateboard with brakes.
WHAT DOES "IT" LOOK LIKE:
Ok, bear with me. First of all, picture the size tires that a golf cart has (not that thick, but about the same height). Add an axle between the two tires that is wide enough that you can comfortably place your feet on it. Now, from the middle of the axle add a post that will extend upwards past the waist line. Finally, think of the handles bars that you were accustomed to on your first bike-curved to form a 1/3 of a circle around the rider.
Another way to think of the Segway is to picture the little red wagon that so many of us had as children. You had four wheels, a flat area to haul "stuff", and then the handle that would stand straight up when resting. Now, chop off the back 3/4 of the wagon and what you have left is what the Segway looks like.
HOW DOES IT WORK:
I am not the most technically oriented and I am not one to try to write with a highly technical tone. That being said, I will attempt to describe how the Segway works.
First of all, the Segway relies on balance technology. The base underneath you is not very wide, but will hold you up. This is key as the direction that you move will be determined by which way your weight shifts. Huh? Yes, if you lean forward, you will go forward. If you learn backwards, you will go in reverse. Pretty cool. Ok, back to the balancing technology. The Segway essentially relies of your center of gravity to make the decisions on where it is going. In other words, the Segway always tries to stay underneath you. While this is very cool and useful, the problem is adjusting and not trying to make the Segway to do something by shifting your weight.
A question that I am sure is begging to be asked is, how hard is it to balance myself on the platform? Actually, not all that tough. Do not think of this as skateboarding or trying to walk on a floating log; the balance required is more like that needed to use an elliptical machine. In other words, you need some coordination and a time to become accustomed to everything, but in time it becomes second nature. As far as acceleration and stopping are concerned, think of a jet ski; not quite as fast when starting up, but with a similar stopping motion.
You know how to go straight, but how do you turn? Turning is as simple as squeezing the handle bar. A squeeze of the left handle bar will turn you to the left and right bar takes you to the right. Pretty simple.
A number of people felt that the Segway was similar to a bike or a scooter, but there are differences. First of all, you have a motor that provides stability much like that of dropping your car into a lower gear to slow down; you can feel the power. You also do not exactly coast like you would with a bike. With the Segway, you control the power just like you do with walking.
HOW DOES IT HANDLE DIFFERENT CONDITIONS:
The Segway is supposed to handle numerous different types of conditions: snow, rain, loose surfaces, hills, bumps, etc. At the event that I attended, the Segway dealt with loose surfaces and bumpy terrain. The Segway actually dealt quite well. If you were looking to go a mile in suburbia, you could traverse bumps, grass, and hills without a problem. Rain should not be a problem, but I would not to get myself in a situation where I had to go through snow. The Segway also feels surprisingly stable through all different types of conditions.
WHAT ABOUT THE BATTERY:
The battery is "not a cell phone battery". Yes, that is an often used line within the marketing. The battery is supposed to be good for "a few thousand miles". What this means is up to debate. I consider a few to be more than a couple, but beyond that, who knows. The battery is charged by plugging it into a socket. Re- charging truly could not be easier.
A COUPLE OF PROBLEMS:
From a technical standpoint, I experienced zero problems. As for performance, the Segway was flawless. However, there are a few problems. For one, the Segway always tries to stay underneath your center of gravity. What this means is that getting off of it can be challenging. The Segway will keep your center of gravity in mind as you hop off. The problem is that it will roll back (if you hop off to the back) to find your center of gravity.
Along the same line, is the first step; having the confidence to step on the platform. I can assure you that the first step is not easy. I would liken it to arriving at the top of a black diamond mountain for the first time and knowing that you have to get yourself down the hill. Yes, you get a slight bit queasy. However, the trainers will show you how to get on and help you the first few times.
Trainers? Yes, and I consider this to be a positive and a negative. The positive is that you are not alone; you have trainers to teach you how to safely use the Segway. The negative is that you have trainers to teach you how to use the Segway. Yes, they are competent, friendly, and professional. Yes, they teach well and plenty of people need them. No, they should not be required. You heard correctly. Before you can take delivery of your Segway, you must attend a training course. The courses are offered in big cities around the country and are conducted fairly frequently. The problem I have is that the Segway is not that difficult to utilize; make the training an option, not mandatory. Gotta love lawyers.
THE BIGGEST PROBLEM:
I live and work in a big city (Philadelphia) and there are more bicycle messengers than there are pigeons. Have you ever noticed how the bicycle messengers like to ride on the sidewalk (less bumps, easier ride, more likely to live) rather than the street? Have you ever noticed how when they ride on the sidewalk they move at precisely the speed of everyone else? Why do they do ride at such a slow pace? Well, the main reason is safety. The street is too dangerous (cabbies, potholes, people, car doors, etc.) so the sidewalk provides another option. The problem is that the sidewalk is congested with people. Hence, the slower speeds.
The Segway reaches a top speed of 12 MPH (Some models may go faster.), but when would I ever use the top speed? You and I both know how difficult it is to dodge people when jogging on a busy sidewalk- at a top speed of maybe 7 MPH. How dangerous is it to try make your way around any big city at 12 MPH while on the street or the sidewalk? My guess is that on the street, I would be taken out by a cabbie in no time and on the sidewalk, I would take out someone in less than no time. The amazing thing is that a number of cities have given the Segway an ok to operate on the sidewalk.
WHO WILL USE IT:
A big question of mine is who will use the Segway? I walk eight blocks from the train station to my office every morning and evening. Would I purchase the Segway to avoid the walk? Not a chance. The area is too congested and the walk is not so long that I get tired (I could get off at another station and walk just two blocks, but I like the exercise.) or suffer from the weather. Not to mention that I do not know how I would get the Segway off the train, down the the stairs (Weighs about 80 LBS), and out of the train station.
So, who will use the Segway? The handicapped? I doubt it. The elderly? Perhaps. Those suffering from ailments? Perhaps. The thing is, the elderly need to get exercise and quite often those suffering from ailments would benefit from exercise. The Segway might just lead to us becoming an even unhealthier nation (Philadelphia has already been voted the most obese city in the country.) than we already are.
Where the Segway makes sense is areas that do necessarily involve you and I. The Segway makes sense for: bicycle messengers, the military (Already a market for Segway.), the postal service, etc. Perhaps those people for who walking is uncomfortable. Also, those jobs that require long walks- company mail employee, or football coach.
Does it make sense for the rest of us? Not in my mind. I just cannot see being able to safely travel at a speed that makes much of a difference.
WHERE CAN I GET ONE:
Well, you can't. At least not yet. Amazon.com is currently offering a "deal" where you can make a non- refundable deposit of $495.00 for a March- at the earliest- delivery. Amazon will guarantee that if you make the deposit this year, you will receive your Segway by July 31, 2003. The deliveries will be made on a first come, first serve basis and you are limited to two per customer. Your cost comes to $4,950.00 and that does not include $99 for shipping and handling. Ouch.
THE BOTTOM LINE:
The Segway may be the coolest thing to hit the market in years, but as far as practicality is concerned, it misses the boat. Does it change my life? Not even close. I prefer to walk, bike, or jog for the health benefits. Though safe for the rider, the Segway is not safe for everyone else who is on the sidewalk. I can think of a lot better ways to $5000.
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