Despite recall, Segway CEO bullish on future
So, Segway has recalled all 23,500 of its Human Transporters currently at large due to a software glitch. This is not the sort of publicity that the company, or its marquis investors such as Valley VC Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers, were looking for in the lead-up to a rumored initial public offering, but the flaw appears relatively minor. (There have been only six reported accidents, the worst on the order of broken wrists or teeth, reports Ryan Blitstein at the Mercury News, and the problem can be solved with a free software upgrade.)
Indeed, "writing off Segway...would be a big mistake," argued BusinessWeek in a feature on the company that appeared Monday. (Interestingly, news of the recall was absent from the story, though it seems Segway had been studying the problem for some time. The Browser assumes either Segway somehow didn't know the recall was imminent, or the company simply chose not to offer up that bit of information.)
In any event, the story's point remains valid, which is that Segway may yet grow into something more than a small-time vendor of two-wheelers if it can figure a way to apply inventor Dean Kamen's nifty gyroscopic innovations to a wider set of problems. That, at least, is the current strategy of CEO James Norrod:
"I look at the technology," says Norrod, "and ask, 'Where else can it be used?"' ... In [Norrod's] view, Segway needn't define a whole new urban ecology or replace the car. It can put its technology into anything that moves. That means unmanned vehicles with potential military or industrial uses, or multiperson vehicles that use Segway's computers and electric engines to glide smoothly over obstacles. ... "If people want four wheels," says Norrod, "I should give 'em four wheels."Very sporting of him, though until they fix this reverse torque problem, we're more interested in the unmanned vehicles.
To my view this product holds the key to a major issue for all of those who are in wheelchairs. With some adjustments, the Segway concept could be turned into a product that allows some of our wheelchair-bound disabled to stand up and move around. For one, the social aspects of being face to face with other people during a conversation in contrast to looking up from a sitting position can be quite significant.
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