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Ginger: C5 or cat's pajamas?

Ginger revealed as personal transportation device

After nearly a year of speculation and anticipation, inventor Dean Kamen yesterday unveiled the product formerly known as Ginger — it's called the Segway personal transportation device.

Most closely resembling a scooter, the Segway is a two-wheeled personal transportation system that is 'driven' by the body's movements, according to a press release issued by Segway, the company that will sell the device.

Kamen is chairman and chief executive of Segway. Using a technology called 'Dynamic Stabilization' that is designed to simulate the way the human body moves, Segway will shift forward when its rider leans forward and back up when its rider leans back, the company said. Dynamic Stabilization is achieved by having gyroscopes and tilt sensors that monitor the rider's centre of gravity around 100 times a second, the company said.

The device will be no larger than the average human body and will be able to go anywhere a pedestrian can walk, the company said. Segway will manufacture three initial models of the device — the i-series, the e-series and the p-series.

The i-series will be designed for range and speed across different terrains, the e-series will be used in business applications such as warehousing and will be able to haul up to 35 kilograms (75 pounds) beyond the rider's body weight, and the p-series will be targeted at densely populated areas, Segway said.

The company expects that the device will first be used in commercial settings such as manufacturing plants and warehouses. The Segway device is expected to be available to consumers in late 2002, the company said.

The low-end model will be priced at over £2,000 plus VAT, with the business-class device retailing for around £5,600 plus VAT, according to a report by Time magazine. Company officials were not immediately available to confirm price.

So far online views by the public on whether they’d actually use the device have been mixed.

Opinion at the open-source news and discussion website Slashdot was at odds.

"Being a bicyclist, I am partial to light, fast, cheap transportation. The Segway appears to be none of these. It is expensive, a brute-force solution to a non-problem... That's why I, at least, am underwhelmed," said one user, called Jabbo.

Another Slashdot user was more positive about the device. CaptainCarrot, who noted Kamen's past devices were practical for handicapped users, said: "The disabled, such as my five-year-old son who suffers from cerebral palsy, are most often not retarded, but due to their limitations are unable to operate a scooter or a car. [Segway] may be just the thing for them. (And let me tell you, it is priced very competitively [compared to] ordinary motorised wheelchairs.)" he wrote.

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