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

We all know that didn’t happen. The Segway is still around and it isn’t a totally unusual site to see someone taking a Segway out for a “drive” around the block.  For a “failed” technology, that is a pretty notable feat!

But just how do these two-wheeled scooters work? Electric motors hold the key.

Powering the Segway

The Segway PT is powered by electric motors.  Those motors are fueled by a series of lithium-ion batteries which are simply charged by a common household electrical socket. Five gyroscopic sensors, two tilt sensors, and two computers with specialty software keep the Segway from tipping over.

Making the Segway Move

The sensors register if the user shifts their body weight to change the direction and speed of movement. Put simply, when you wish to go forward at a quicker pace, you would pull the handlebars closer to the body and lean forward slightly. The Segway’s current top speed is 12.5 mph and is ideal for areas with plenty of wide, flat sidewalk space.

Lowered Expectations

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

In the 10 years since its release, the Segway has not completely failed, but its strange overall look and goofy riding style makes it nearly impossible to achieve its expected level of success.

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