The Segway hasn’t been the runaway hit that inventor Dean Kamen hoped–only 50,000 have been sold in seven years–but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a little healthy competition. The Orbis, a one-wheeled self-balancing urban mobility vehicle, uses gyroscopes (like the Segway) to stay upright and generates power from a lithium ion battery and internal hub motor.
The 25 pound vehicle features an aluminum body and has a top speed of 14 miles an hour–slower than the Segway, which reaches over 16 miles an hour. But the Orbis does have one major advantage over Dean Kamen’s brainchild: it folds up into a compact little package that an easily be toted into buildings, on public transportation, and elsewhere. In this respect, the Orbis is similar to the recently unveiled Contortionist folding bike, which rolls up smaller than single wheel. The bike, however, has the distinct advantage of being a type of transportation that many people are comfortable with.
The ultimate success of the Orbis, which is up for the James Dyson Award, will depend on its price. If consumers can get a reasonable electric two or four-wheeled vehicle for the same amount of cash, the Orbis is doomed. But if it’s cheap enough, we may see Orbis riders zipping past us on the sidewalk left and right.