Segway Inc., founded in the US by Dean Kamen in 1999, is synonymous with personal transportation on a level unlike anything we had seen before. When the Segway PT was unveiled in December of 2001, many people claimed it was the wave of the future. This two-wheeled self-balancing personal transport machine allowed for faster-than-walking travel and was marketed to tourists, businessmen, police officers, military and security personnel and warehouse workers.
Despite not reaching sales goals, the companies investors remained positive. In 2006, all Segway PT’s sold since launching were recalled due to a software malfunction that caused the machines to reverse and had the potential for injuring riders. In late 2009, millionaire businessman Jimi Heselden bought the company but then died in a freak accident just a few months later when the Segway he was riding went off a cliff.
In 2015, after some disputes over patent infringement, a Chinese robotics manufacturer, Ninebot, acquired ownership of Segway Inc. and announced that production would be moved from New Hampshire to China. With ownership of these new patents and technology, Ninebot has made it clear that they intend to move Segway into the future.
The newest product to be released as part of Segway’s personal transportation line seems to be geared more towards young adults though, and is reminiscent of the freeline skates that tried to take hold of the skating scene in the early years of the 2000’s.
The company crowdfunded more than 30 times what they needed for research and development (with two weeks to spare in their funding campaign) and is now taking pre-orders on Indiegogo for the skates with hopes to begin shipping in October of this year. Named the Drift W1, these electronic skates feature only one wheel. The platform for your foot to rest on is hinged on this wheel allowing the rider to balance and turn simply by moving the ankle, while keeping the legs free of each other true to more traditional skate forms.
The skates are touted as self-balancing and are aimed at taking over the hoverboard market. Coming in at just under 8 lbs. per skate, the company claims they are lightweight and easy to carry in your backpack or bag. They come with a dual-charger, so you can conveniently charge both skates simultaneously, and claim a 45-minute session is possible per charge. They also come with a $400 price tag.
While it seems the company has been revived by its new owners and is likely to see some better sales with these newer products and better marketing (after all, the original Segway PT only sold some 30,000 units), it seems a bit unclear whether these new e-skates will really be the personal transport of the new generations.
Undoubtedly, they will be on lots of Christmas lists this year, and we are likely to see some younger people zipping around town on them. But until the customer reviews start rolling in, it is unclear if the Segway Drift W1 will really hit the mark for electronic personal transportation this time.