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Tuesday, 19 February, 2002, 18:05 GMT
Hyped scooter goes on sale
Demonstrating the Segway
Its inventors claim using the Segway is like dancing
The Segway, an upright scooter which its inventors say will revolutionise transportation, has gone on sale to the public for the first time.


[The Segway] functions like an extension of you; like a dance partner able to anticipate your every move

Segway
Three limited edition Segways are being auctioned on the internet for charity, ahead of the full retail launch planned later this year.

The Segway attracted huge media interest - some would say "hype" - before it was unveiled last December.

And while some have been disappointed that the Segway turned out only to be a somewhat comical-looking scooter, bids for the three first models have already been brisk.

By 1800 GMT on the first day of bidding on the Amazon.com website, and with more than five weeks left before the auction closes, the price of each model had reached more than $16,000.

Hype helps

The short history of the Segway has been a triumph of news management.

Dean Kamen
Mr Kamen has a towering reputation
For much of last year, it was kept under wraps, known only as "IT", but its backers claimed it was going to be "more important than the internet".

Its inventor, Dean Kamen, had a powerful track record, and was funded by some of the brightest names in Silicon Valley.

"IT" turned out to be only a scooter, but a highly unusual one: two-wheeled, it balances by means of gyroscopes, and its motors respond to the position of the rider.

The manufacturers say it "functions like an extension of you; like a dance partner able to anticipate your every move.

"The technology is so advanced, it doesn't feel like technology at all," they boast.

"It just feels right."

Modest prospects

The Segway's astonishingly high profile is certainly what lies behind the auction interest, rather than the limited edition features - which include hand-stitched leather and Mr Kamen's signature on each model.

The auction prospectus
The auction models come with all mod cons
Less clear is whether the Segway will catch on as a mass-market product.

The makers claim to have received expressions of interest from the US Postal Service and various police forces, as well as Amazon itself, one of the firms backing the project.

Various municipalities have waived their objections to the machine, which operates along pavements rather than on the road.

But the Segway's limited utility and hefty price tag - likely to be some $3,000 retail and up to $8,000 for specialist corporate customers - may well confine it to an enthusiastic niche.

See also:

03 Dec 01 | Sci/Tech
'IT' is finally unveiled
12 Jan 01 | UK
Will 'IT' change your life?
02 Jun 00 | Health
Super wheelchair tackles stairs
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