WHAT IS IT?
The Segway PT is a two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered electric vehicle invented by Dean Kamen. It is produced by Segway Inc. of New Hampshire. The name Segway is derived from the word segue, meaning smooth transition. PT is an abbreviation for personal transporter.
Computers and motors in the base of the device keep the Segway PT upright when powered on with balancing enabled. A user commands the Segway to go forward by shifting their weight forward on the platform, and backward by shifting their weight backward. The Segway detects, as it balances, the change in its center of mass, and first establishes and then maintains a corresponding speed, forward or backward. Gyroscopic sensors and fluid-based leveling sensors detect the weight shift. To turn, the user presses the handlebar to the left or the right.
Segway PTs are driven by electric motors and can reach a speed of 12.5 miles per hour (20.1 km/h).
The Segway PT was known by the names Ginger and IT before it was unveiled. Ginger came out of the first product that used Kamen’s balancing technology, the iBOT wheelchair. During development at the University of Plymouth, in conjunction with BAE Systems and Sumitomo Precision Products, the iBot was nicknamed Fred Upstairs (after Fred Astaire) because it can climb stairs: hence the name Ginger, after Astaire’s regular film partner, Ginger Rogers, for a successor product.
The invention, development, and financing of the Segway was the subject of a narrative nonfiction book, Code Name Ginger (in paperback as Reinventing the Wheel), by journalist Steve Kemper. The leak of information from that book led to speculation about the “IT” device prior to release. The speculation created an unexpected advance buzz about the product that was, at times, hyperbolic. Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that it was “as big a deal as the PC”, though later sources quoted him as saying when first introduced to the product that its design “sucked”. John Doerr speculated that it would be more important than the Internet. Articles were written in major publications speculating on it being a Stirling engine. South Park devoted an episode to making fun of the hype before the product was released.
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