Inventor Dean Kamen has finally unveiled ?It? (aka ?Ginger?). It?s a one-person, battery-powered scooter that resembles a lawn mower that?s easy to ride and hard to fall off.It?s officially called the Segway Human Transporter and has gyroscopes to keep it upright and a sensitive steering mechanism that starts it moving when the rider leans forward. It has a top speed of 12 miles an hour, and can go 15 miles on one battery charge. ?All the knowledge that went into knowing how to walk goes into this machine,? says Kamen. ?It kind of walks for you.?
Dean Kamen designed it for use on the sidewalks of congested cities, for short trips when it?s too far to walk but you don?t want to take the car. ?Cars are great for going long distances,? says Kamen. ?But it makes no sense at all for people in cities to use a 4,000-pound piece of metal to haul their 150-pound asses around town.?
However, this invention has the same kinds of problems that have kept Americans in their cars and out of public transportation. Since most short trips are shopping trips, where are you going to put the groceries, hardware and etc. that you buy? Another common reason for getting in the car is to take the kids places, and the scooter is a one-person vehicle. An additional problem is that it?s designed to be ridden on the sidewalk, which is illegal in many localities (and many suburban areas do not even have sidewalks). Riding in the street could be risky if there?s heavy traffic and if you?re going to do that, why not get a motorcycle instead?
The U.S. Postal Service, General Electric and the National Park Service have already agreed to buy some of the scooters at a cost of $8,000 each for the heavy duty models. Consumer versions will cost $3000 and will be available in a year. The company has constructed a large factory in New Hampshire capable of producing 40,000 Segways a month by the end of 2002.
Statements about the invention being ?more important than the internet? caused wild speculation about what ?It? could be. Now Kamen admits the unveiling of the scooter could be an anticlimax. He says, ?It won?t beam you up to Mars or turn lead into gold. So, sue me.? Unknowncountry.com correctly predicted the true identity of ?It? when the rumors first started (see links below).
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