Segways and iBots

While I’ve now seen several Segways, I still don’t own one. This may mean that I’m gaining a certain amount of sanity in my old age, because there’s no doubt that I’d like one. This is partly because I love toys, but mostly because I think it a beautiful bit of engineering. Three years ago, I met Dean Kamen at a conference where he was demonstrating his balancing ‘iBot‘ wheelchair – the predecessor to the Segway – and I thought it one of the most inspiring examples of engineering I’ve ever seen.

It can balance on two wheels and is incredibly stable. The idea is that people in wheelchairs shouldn’t have to be lower than everybody else. It can go up stairs, too. iBots are expensive, though – at $29,000 they cost more than a nice car – and I’ve heard that it was partly the desire to reduce the cost of the technology that made Dean think of a mass-market product like the Segway.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser