Friday, June 01, 2007

Toy or Tool? The Segway...

Howard and I have been sharing some thoughts on what gadgets fall under the category of toys, versus being classified as tools.

Last week I saw a Segway in use for the first time. A mall cop at Ross Park Mall in Pittsburgh was "walking the beat" behind Cheesecake Factory on one. It made me wonder what he'd do if he encountered trouble. would he leave the Segway unattended and pursue the actor on foot? would the perrpetrator's partners in crime steal the Segway when he leaves it?

To me, the Segway is the most unfortunate example of a toy is really trying to be a tool, but can't figure out how. Or maybe I can't figure out how. Here is a piece of phenomenal innovation. When the rumors began to surface about its existence, people in the know said cities would rebuild themselves around these things. But before the Segway could even gain a foothold (no pun intended), towns were banning them from sidewalks for fear of injuries.

The fact is, the Segway tries too hard to resolve a need that doesn't necesarily exist. I'm not sure I see how you can do anything on a Segway that you can't do better walking or on a bike. For one thing, cops doing a bike beat get more exerrcise and can go faster, and into more places, than if they used a Segway. So is there truly a NEED fora Segway? If not, then it's a toy.

In my opinion there are a few ways that a Segway could become more than just a toy. First, give it the ability to tow a trailer. This would make it useful for warehouses, mailmen, and the like. Second, make it strong enough to tow those trailers uphill. This might make it handy as alternative transportation for suburbanites. And lastly, make it faster than walking briskly. The idea of transportation is to get someplace faster than walking.

The Segway has its place. As a curiosity, as a toy, and in some cases perhaps as something that verges on a tool. But it ain't there yet.

Now, if Segway decided to actually build the Concept Centaur they show on their site, that right there is a toy that excels at being a toy.

Oh and hey...what's a Segway?

'bout 150 pounds.

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