Happy Birthday to the Segway

It wasn’t that long ago that inventor Dean Kamen thought his two-wheeled personal transportation device, the Segway, would revolutionize transportation.  Sadly, the Segway has grown to be synonymous with technology failure.  Kamen envisioned a future filled people zipping about on a Segway PT scooter to run errands and travel to work.

That vision hasn’t quite come to fruition and it’s pretty rare that you see someone utilizing a Segway. They are still around and have recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. So while they may be classified as a tech failure, they’re still alive and kicking.

How do they work though? Below we’ll take a look at the tech behind the Segway.

Powering the Segway

Each Segway PT is powered by electric motors that are, in turn, fueled by phosphate-based lithium-ion batteries. Segway owners can charge these batteries by plugging their Segways into common residential electrical sockets. The device doesn’t tip over thanks to its two computers loaded with proprietary software, pair of tilt sensors, and five gyroscopic sensors.

Making the Segway Move

The user plays the largest role in making the Segway move. Simply by shifting your weight in the direction you need to go and moving the handlebars slightly, the Segway’s sensors identify the change in balance point and react accordingly. The most recent version of the Segway has a top speed of 12.5 MPH. For obvious reason, it works best on flat surfaces.

Lowered Expectations

The device never did live up to its hype. Many technology professionals predicted the Segway PT would be a bigger deal than the Internet. Consequently, when company officials revealed the first Segway scooter in December of 2001 in Manhattan, expectations soared.

Of course, we all know what happened. The Segway looked odd, and people looked odd riding it. Which was enough to prevent the Segway from taking off as its promoters anticipated.