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Segway’s Next Sentence

I got to drive one of the new, second-gen Segway yesterday. The i2 ($4,995), along with the off-road x2 version ($5,495), is the company’s hope to make good on their promise to revolutionize travel. It features a redesigned control system that reacts to the driver’s body – lean left, turn left; lean forward, go forward. The company says this system is more intuitive and easier to use than the handlebar steering-based one.

It works pretty well. Finding my balance was the hardest part. It’s not unlike riding a snowboard, though getting the hang this time didn’t cost me feeling in my butt. Once I got going, it zoomed smoothly around obstacles and over ramps to imitate uneven terrain. Surprisingly, no one ran into anything (as a general rule, if bookish, writer types have enough dexterity for it, you’ve got a winner). One errant rider did cause some concerned looks from the company handlers when he got too close to some nearby AV equipment.

But as design problems go, the Segway’s wasn’t. The new design probably is much better, but that doesn’t address the real problem: the MIT types who co-opted it first time around. And now police departments – not exactly merchants of fresh either – have become the company’s top clients. Can the company turn around its dorky image to get a wider consumer base or is it relegated forever to be the Screech of travel?

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