'IT' Unveiled: A Self-Balancing Scooter

ByABC News via logo
December 2, 2001, 11:59 PM

N E W   Y O R K, Dec. 3 -- After nearly a year of speculation, Dean Kamen's mysterious machine IT was revealed on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.

In Internet discussions, eager technology enthusiasts and those ready for a Jetsons-like lifestyle guessed "IT" would be anything from a hovercraft to a high-speed scooter powered by an ultra-efficient Stirling engine.

While Kamen's invention, the Segway Human Transporter, does move people, it doesn't leave the ground and it's powered by a battery.

The inventor revealed his two-wheeled personal transportation device, intended for a single standing rider, Monday on Good Morning America.

"This is the world's first self-balancing human transporter," Kamen said."You stand on this Segway Human Transporter and you think forward and then you go forward. If you think backward, you go backward."

A Smooth Walker

The transporter, which can go up to 12 miles an hour, looks more like a lawn mower than a scooter and has no brakes. It is designed to mimic the human body's ability to maintain its balance; riders control the speed and direction of the device simply by shifting their weight and using a manual turning mechanism on one of the handlebars.

"All of the knowledge that went into knowing how to walk is transferred to this machine," Kamen said. "When you stand on this machine, it kind of walks for you. It just does it smoothly and gracefully."

The 65-pound device, also known by its former code name, "Ginger," looks simple, but its inner workings are intricate.

Tilt sensors monitor the rider's center of gravity more than 100 times a second, and are able to signal both the direction and the speed to the device's electric motor and wheels.