IT’s here, and you can’t stop it. The Segway Human Transporter, inventor Dean Kamen’s latest revolutionary product, is billed as an extension of the body as its numerous computer chips and gyroscopes allow the rider to stay balanced even when it is standing still. Kamen says it’s like waking up and having wheels instead of feet.
The invention, code-named IT and Ginger, generated publicity last year when computer bigheads such as Steve Jobs of Apple and Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com started hinting that the secret invention would be larger than the personal computer and the Internet.
And with its unveiling Monday on Good Morning America, IT has generated even more hype. But not the kind of hype I expected. Thomas Sutcliffe of The Independent out of London wrote yesterday that the invention was too ugly and that people are too vain to ride such an odd-looking contraption. It looks like a golf pull cart with an instrument panel.
St. Petersburg Times columnist Robert Trigaux wrote Wednesday that Ginger from Gilligan’s Island would have a longer-lasting legacy than the Segway.
And even our own columnist Collin Sherwin wrote Tuesday how the IT will never be able to live up to its expectations due to its weight, lack of speed and America’s century-long love affair with cars.
But all three are missing the point. The invention, unfortunately slandered each time it is referred to as a scooter, is not meant to replace cars. It is meant to accompany them. The company’s Web site, Segway.com, says that two can fit in the trunk of a mid-size sedan.
As far as vanity goes, flashy-looking products tend to be trendy and don’t hold a staple in the market. Simplicity sells, as evidenced by Birkenstocks, minivans and, more recently, the boxy and rigid PlayStation 2.
And Gilligan’s Island? I don’t know who this Ginger character is to begin with and neither will the generation that spearheads the takeoff of this efficient, self-transport movement.
I have a feeling that things never change. Skeptical, stone-age journalists probably chiseled cynical columns about how the wheel would never take off. Ancient cave-wall illustrations would translate, “too round, too heavy; won’t replace foot anytime soon.” I’d imagine Emile Levassor and Rene Panhard faced similar criticism in France when they were getting ready to unveil the first modern-day car in 1890.
And we’ve all had a chuckle in response to bold quotes like this one from 1977: “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home,” said Ken Olson, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation.
At least we know Jobs and his cohort Steve Wozniak laughed when their garage-created Apple computer made them millionaires in the ’80s and sparked a revolution not only in technology but in how we live our lives.
But I am not a naysayer. IT is it as far as I’m concerned. I envision a time ten years from now when its logo is as recognizable as Nike’s swoosh and its name as discernible as Microsoft.
I believe the Segway might even be the all-encompassing answer to the question Bill Gates has been asking consumers for years: “Where do you want to go today?” But IT also answers the question, “Where do you want to go tomorrow?”
- Ryan Meehan is The Oracle news email@example.com