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High profile inventor launches super scooter

Dean Kamen is an American inventor with big technology connections so there
was a lot of excitement about his “IT” project which some claimed would be
“bigger than the internet or home computers”.

What investors like Jeff Bezos, of Amazon, and Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple have
backed is the Segway human transporter, a two wheeled, gyroscopically
balanced, electric scooter.

The fact that the two wheeled chariot might seem rather a let down was
acknowledged by Kamen in a typically American fashion in an interview for
Time magazine; “It won’t beam you up to Mars or turn lead into gold. So, sue
me.”

Different reports put the machines top speed between 17mph and 12mph with a
1-2 hour range depending on who you believe. It operates instinctively by
accelerating when you lean forward and deccelerating when you lean back.
Steering is by a stalk mounted handlebar or “user interface”. A large
factory is already gearing up for production in the US with orders already
placed by General Electric, the US National Parks and United States Postal
Service for heavy duty versions despite a £5000 price tag. Even the civilian
versions which aren’t planned to be available until 2003 will cost £2000.

Mr Kamen has produced some great ideas such as wheelchairs that climb stairs
and portable dialysis machines but we can’t see this catching on for several
reasons.

For a start where will it be ridden – Pavement users rarely top 4mph and the
idea of manouevring it along crowded streets (even if that’s legal and
doesn’t cause huge public outrage) does our heads in. So do you take to the
road where the lack of acceleration and top speed will leave you a sitting
and unprotected duck in multi lane traffic, or wobbling backwards and
forwards trying to filter it down pothole riddled gutters between traffic,
along with psychotic couriers and bike commuters. Even the elderly – who
seem a prime market – won’t enjoy standing up when they could sit on a
normal electric buggy.
Add to that a 65lb weight to try and lug up stairs or into cupboards and ten
gyroscope linked microprocessors ready to go wrong and we doubt we’ll be
hanging up our cycle clips for a while.
Even Clive Sinclair inventor of the ill fated C5 electric buggy was
sceptical when interviewed by www.newscientist.com “It’s a lovely elegant idea
and I’m excited about that. But I can’t convince myself that it’s what
people want.”

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