I just read a really insightful review of the Segway Human Transporter by Dan Bricklin (creator of Visicalc, the first spreadsheet). There’s been a lot of hype around it, and that’s caused a lot of people to dismiss it, thinking it’s just a better motorized scooter.
Dan explains Why It’s Not Just A Scooter. Things like bicycles, scooters, and skiing all require very constrained movements and positions. We learn to operate in the small “comfort zone” where the device operates predictably and controllably. If you venture outside of those, they behave “non-linearly,” and you fall, or crash.
The Segway HT, by comparison, has an extremely wide range of movements and positions where it behaves linearly, and it is highly reactive to your natural body motions, actively keeping you in the (much wider) comfort zone. It’s most like walking, e.g., bending to pick something up, or bumping into someone else, or hitting a bump, or stopping suddenly while you’re in motion is not a dangerous incident. Learning to ride a Segway almost a non-event.
This means it’s an inclusive technology, not an exclusive technology. My mother would never get on a Razor scooter (for that matter, neither would I!), but she would be extremely comfortable, even confident, on a Segway HT.
At a conference Dan attended, most of the people who used (and loved) the Segway were 50+ years old. With a Segway, the notion of “walking distance” for an older person with bad knees is suddenly not “to the car and back,” but something more like what it was when they were 20. That’s powerful technology!
It’s hard to imagine it today, looking at the “cute” little Segway HTs, but the active mechanics behind it is disruptive technology. When Steve Jobs says “people will design cities around these,” it’s only a little hyperbole. Think of the active mechanics in the first Segway HTs as the first microprocessor, and look at how far we’ve come from those processors. That’s why people get excited about the Segway.