Archive for March, 2012

Wounded warriors to receive free Segway PTs on deck of aircraft carrier

Wounded soldiers from USA’s wars overseas are to receive free Segway Personal Transporters (PTs) in a ceremony on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Midway on 4 April 2012.

Seg4Vets will gift Segway PTs to 39 vets located in San Diego, including 24 who lost legs in improvised explosive device blasts. Of the 24 amputees, five lost both legs and one recipient lost both legs and a hand. The others sustained extreme orthopedic, soft tissue and spinal cord damage which hinders their ability to walk. According to the press release for this event:

The Segway, a two-wheeled, self-balancing battery electric vehicle, has found an avid following among the disabled because its universal design allows almost anyone to use it without drawing attention to their disability. The impact of the Segs4Vets program resonates well beyond the recipients; it extends to the veterans’ family members whose lives have also been turned upside down. For many, the Segway has brought about dramatic improvement in family dynamics. Previous recipients have gone on to use their Segways to attend college, remain on active duty, work in private sector jobs, and engage in recreational activities with their families.

Segs4Vets was created in 2005 and has given out more than 850 Segway PTs to date. It expects to provide a further 2,500 over the next 5 years, including 1,000 donated by the late Jimi Heselden, owner of Segway, Inc.

UPDATED 5 April 2012: At the ceronomy, 10 News interviewed Segs4Vets founder and a veteran who received a Segway PT:

“For wounded veterans, it’s the perfect device for those who have lost their mobility or have a difficult time walking around,” said Jerry Kerr, the founder of Segs4Vets. “[It] lets them once again feel the wind in their face as if they were running again.”

“This is a game changer,” said Kyle Garcia, a wounded Marine. “When you have one prosthetic and one limb salvaged, walking is really hard.”

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Students mount frickin’ laser beam on Segway PT at Auckland University School of Engineering

Segway New Zealand’s managing director Philip Bendall completed a degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Auckland. So he was thrilled when Dr Karl Stol of the School of Engineering purchased two Segway Personal Transporters (PTs) in 2006.

One Segway PT – an i180 model – is used primarily for promotional purposes, such as interesting secondary school students in pursuing the profession of Engineering. The other – a p133 model – has been put to work in the laboratory, and modified almost beyond recognition. It has also been mounted with frickin’ laser beam! For peaceful purposes, of course.

The p133 has been part of many research projects over the last six years. The essence of how a Segway PT works is embodied in the engineering field known as Dynamics and Controls. This year, PhD student Ronald Chan is one of several utilising the highly modified p133 as a research platform.

Ronald’s project and those of other students seek to improve the performance of self-balancing machines used for autonomous robotic purposes. The first project in this area was entitled “Development of a Two-Wheeled Balancing Platform for Autonomous Applications”).

Another project uses a laser range-finder and a special algorithm to improve riding up and over bumps (“Step detection and Traversal by a Two-Wheeled Robot”).

Such dynamic problems are complex to model and are a very interesting field of study. There is little doubt that balancing machines will become more common and more useful as this decade progresses.

The Mechanical Engineering department decided to replace the p133’s two Controller Boards and Balance Sensor Array (the gyroscopes and accelerometers) with their own units, as the proprietary code belonging to Segway, Inc. was not available to them. The Balance Sensor Array (BSA) has been replaced by an off-the-shelf IMU (Inertial Motion Unit) that provides similar data to the BSA, but also adds an electronic magnetic compass (however this component cannot be used because the strong magnetic fields created by the p133’s electric motors generate interference). The Controller Boards have been replaced by a standard PC that communicates wirelessly with the p133 and runs the Mechanical Engineering department’s own custom software that balances and moves the p133 around. The p133’s motors are controlled with signals via a RS-232 interface, and a USB interface has been added to handle the increased data transfer rates required for certain applications. Sharp-eyed observers will notice the gearboxes hhave been deliberately installed upside down to raise the height of the platform.

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TEK Mobilization Device and Lit Motor C-1 balancing motorcycle [updated]

Dean Kamen invented the iBot as a re-imagining of what the electric wheelchair could be to bring vastly improved personal mobility to individuals unable to stand or walk. He invented the Segway Personal Transporter (PT) to bring vastly improved personal mobility to individuals who anyone who can stand, even if they have little or limited ability to walk. The Segway PT has gone on to become the mobility device of choice  for a wide range of disabled users.

Both the iBot and the Segway PT did away with old paradigms early in the design stage and delivered the kind of “the future is here now” solutions that visionary engineers bring to our lives.

Another mobility device was released this week that threw out 100 years of thinking behind wheelchairs in an effort to come up with something better for people with spinal injuries. Called the TEK Mobilization Device it has been touted (as usual) as being “a bit like a Segway” at Gizmodo – but really it isn’t at all.

But for individuals with serious spinal injuries it promises personal mobility like never before. Take a minute to watch the video at Gizmodo to really find out all the ways this invention is a paradigm shift away from the old fashioned 20th century idea of an electric wheelchair.

This is a fine reminder that so often humans think of solutions only in terms of refining what has been done before, rather than starting over with a clean sheet of paper.

And in other “a bit like a Segway” news with CNN Money and GreenBiz: the Lit Motor C-1 is a prototype for an enclosed motorcycle that uses gyroscopes to self-balance. It has a pod-like enclosure “a bit like an EN-V or P.U.M.A.” but looks most of all like a Light Cycle from the movie TRON. Two large gyroscopes provide stabilisation via gyroscopic forces that prevent it from tipping to the side (which is completely unlike how the Segway PT maintains balance). The CNN Money video is the best way to understand how this technological solution is clever – and may even be useful – should the device move from prototype to production.

Technology blog Txnologist (sic) has a good article also has an interesting article about the LIT.

UPDATE 5 JUNE 2012: Wired has an excellent article and some more video here that shows the twin gyroscopes in operation. Interestingly, the gyros look surprisingly like that featured in the Uni-Pod concept artwork from 1963, in terms of size and design.

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They have disabled use of Segway PTs at the Kansas Fair now, Toto

In 2010 the US Federal Government mandated the Segway Personal Transporter (PT) be recognised as a mobility device under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). State governments and businesses throughout the US became obligated to update their access rules to accommodate the fast-growing use of Segway PTs by persons with mobility impairment, and many have moved quickly to do so.

An example of such updating is the Kansas State Fair Board, who today announced that Segway PTs could now be used at fairgrounds. The Hutchison News reports the story as:

New interpretations or changes in the Americans with Disabilities Act prompted the policy changes for the disabled, said State Fair General Manager Denny Stoecklein.

The fair has been able for years to prohibit or limit the use of certain types of vehicles on the fairground, Stoecklein said, for example not allowing someone driving a power mower with the blade deck removed or limiting the use of golf carts.

Under a recent interpretation on mobility devices, however, the fair must now allow Segways – including inside buildings – unless it can document specific reasons to prohibit them.

The Segway PT has been widely adopted by people living with a wide spectrum of conditions both in New Zealand and around the world. Jimi Heselden donated 1,000 Segway PTs to US vets who were disabled during that countries overseas wars. Last year the US Office of the Secretary of Defence awarded the Segway PT a top honour as a mobility device.

Because it is self-balancing, the Segway PT is a safe, stable platform and Segway New Zealand is of the view that the Segway PT is the most useful, practical, flexible and dignified mobility device solution that is suitable for the greatest number of Kiwis that require mobility assistance.

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