Dec 7, 2001 - Segway LLC, a business founded by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, has announced the much-anticipated debut of the Segway Human Transporter (HT), the first self-balancing, electric-powered transportation machine.
From the time plans for the machine were first revealed on the website inside.com almost a year ago, tantalising but unsubstantive mentions of the project code-named "Ginger" or "IT" kept the device in a state of pent-up hype.
Corporate luminaries who'd gotten sneak previews described the machine's impact as being "as big as the PC" and "bigger than the internet."
While the Segway HT is not quite the futuristic 'Jetson's-style' levitating device that some had expected, the innovative self-balancing system does make this a breakthrough product, maybe one which has yet to show it's true potential.
With dimensions no larger than the average adult body and the ability to emulate human balance, the Segway HT uses the same space as a pedestrian and can go anywhere a person can walk; it also increases the distance they travel and the amount they can carry.
"The Segway HT is an enhancement to personal mobility that will allow people to make better use of their time," said Dean Kamen, Segway's chairman & CEO and the man with the technological vision behind the human transporter. "Ultimately, the Segway HT can make urban environments more livable by providing a solution to short-distance travel. If the Segway HT is widely adopted, it could help solve major urban problems, such as pollution, congestion and livability."
The breakthrough technology behind the Segway HT is called "Dynamic Stabilization." This enables Segway HT to work seamlessly with the body's movements. Gyroscopes and tilt sensors in Segway HT monitor a user's center of gravity at about 100 times a second. When a person leans slightly forward, Segway HT moves forward. When leaning back, Segway HT moves back.
"This is the world's first self-balancing human transporter," Kamen said. "It does what a human does - it has gyros and sensors that act like your inner ear; it has a computer that does what your brain does for you.
Segway HT will first be introduced for commercial use. Initial applications include large scale manufacturing plants and warehousing operations, travel and tourism, public safety, corporate and campus transportation, mail, package and product delivery.
Customers scheduled to take part in initial evaluation of the Segway human transporter include Amazon.com, U.S. Postal Service, National Park Service, GE Plastics, Delphi Automotive and Michelin. Consumer availability is planned for late 2002.
The company will produce three distinct models: the i-series optimizes range and speed across a variety of terrain; the e-series is designed for business applications where it is necessary to carry cargo - up to 75 pounds in addition to the rider; the p-series will be ideal for densely populated areas, both indoors and out. The Segway HT's footprint is narrower than the average adult's shoulders and its length is no greater than a large shoe. And it's quiet - designed to emit only a barely audible harmonic hum.
The Segway design development group is made up of teams including Industrial Design, User Interface, Dynamics, Embedded Design, and Power Base.
Industry partners for the Segway development project included Delphi Automotive Systems, GE Plastics, Michelin, Pacific Scientific, Saft and Silicon Sensing Systems.
Segway website: www.segway.com