Archive for May, 2012

Woz takes a Segway Tour to the top of Auckland

MAGIC TOUR: From left: Jackie Goldingham, Pauline Baker, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Ian Watson of Auckland University and Shaarina Taylor on Mt Victoria. Photo (c) Fairfax NZ News

During his visit to Auckland last week, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak glided up to the of Auckland on a Magic Broomsticks Segway Tour. The photo above dominated the front page of yesterday’s North Shore Times and you can read the full article here (it has a number of interesting quotes).

 

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Touring Christchurch by Segway PT (plus The Beatles and Fred Flintstone)

Urban Wheels has been offering Segway Tours of Christchurch for more than 5 years. The Press feature writer Margaret Agnew took a tour of the earthquake damaged CBD recently, accompanied by Urban Wheels proprietor Graeme Gordon – you can read a scanned version of the full article at the bottom of this entry.

Pop culture has embraced and reflected the iconic Segway Personal Transporter (PT) into art, music, comedy and parody. Segway NZ News regularly features excerpts or links to amusing and interesting examples, and you can find these in our archives (some searching suggestions: The Simpsons, Road Runner, Peter Gabriel, Weird Al Yankovic, jousting…). Here are two more, this time juxtaposing past and future – The Beatles crossing Abby Road, and Fred Flintstone:

The Beatles – crossing Abby Road on Segway PTs, and Fred Flintstone gets a Segway PT

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Woz and the Segway PT (did Steve Jobs get it wrong?)

Steve Wozniak is a long-time fan of the Segway Personal Transporter (PT), and has owned many examples. He even purchased a yellow i180 model from Segway New Zealand in 2006.

During his talk Steve Wozniack LIVE: Disruptive Innovation, Inspiration and Entrepreneurial Wizardry in Auckland on Monday 21 May 2012, Woz mentioned the Segway Personal Transporter several times – including of course his love of Segway Polo – the first new internationally played sport of the 21st century.

Woz commented that people often judge how innovative something is by the way that it looks. For this reason alone, the Segway PT was perceived as incredibly innovative. There had never been a real-life self-balancing form of human transport prior to its unveiling in 2001.

Woz used Sony products as an example of this. During the latter part of the 20th century Sony was widely considered the most innovative company in the consumer electronics space. Their offerings were that little bit sleeker, little bit smaller, and a little bit more desirable to own than the competition. This enabled Sony to charge premium prices and fund ongoing R&D that kept them on the leading edge, Today, it could be argued that it is Apple that now holds that crown. At Apple product launches, Steve Jobs would draw attention to how the latest and greatest i-Device was thinner, smaller and lighter than ever before.

Another observation that Woz drew attention to was how technology change often pre-dates the development of applications that use it (rather than these two things occurring simultaneously). The gave the example of how he deliberately built expansion slots into the Apple II computer. These slots would prove to be the key element in the long life of this computer in the marketplace. While he could not predict how these slots would be used, he suspected the innate creativity of humans would ensure people went on to invent the widest variety of “cards” to slide into the slots to expand and extend the capabilities of the Apple II – sensors, gaming peripherals, maths accelerators, graphics cards and more. Woz observed that humans – and especially children – are innately curious….we open every drawer and check inside every cupboard. The decision to build in this openness forever changed how individuals, businesses and organisations could use computers to interact with the real world.

His second example was the incredible graphics capabilities and large amount of RAM that early Macintosh computers were designed to address. The Mac could display a bit-mapped photograph on screen – something no other PC of its era could even come close to achieving. This enabled Adobe Corporation to write Photoshop, thereby forever changing the world of print.

There is an analogy here with Darwinian evolution. Certain plants and animals within a species happen to exhibit expressions of genes that make them already pre-adapted to the environmental changes that are occuring, thereby improving their chances of survival (and thus passing on their genes).

The Segway PT is probably an example of a technology that pre-dates the changes in the environment in which it will ultimately thrive, and deliver to people and their communities the benefits it offers.

On many occasions over the last decade Dean Kaman has made this observation, believing that even today the Segway PT is ahead of its time. If he is asked if the Segway PT has been a failure in the marketplace, he says “Ask me again in 10 years and we’ll see who is right” while commenting it took three to four decades between the invention of the motor car and its widespread adoption. He comments that inventors often over-estimate how quickly a new idea will catch on, and underestimate the impact of its eventual impact. Projecting forward the rapid growth of Segway Tours during the last three hearts, the rise in use for patrol and public safety applications, and especially by popularity amongst mobility users, it appears increasingly likely that use of the Segway PT will spread rapidly and become ubiquitous in Western cities within 20 years of its launch.

Steve Jobs had an opportunity to see a prototype Segway PT, and made a number of comments about the early, pre-production design. He also gave his opinion on the strategy Segway, Inc. should take with regards to launching the Segway PT, and drew comparisons with how he went about launching the original iMac. Read it all and find out more about Dean Kamen’s audacious plane to change the world in Steve Kemper’s book “Code Name Ginger: the story behind Segway and Dean Kamen’s quest to invent a new world” (buy it from Fishpond or Amazon).

Later,  when the Segway PT first came out Woz said to Steve Jobs that he thought “….it was so cool and elegant and an amazing machine, just like an Apple II or a Mac.” Jobs’ response was “Yes, but it only does one thing, whereas a computer is a platform that can do many things.”

While the Segway PT “only” moves people around, it does so very well in a wide variety of environments and contexts. Further, self-balancing platforms based on the Segway PT are finding applications in robotics and materials handling, entertainment and education. Perhaps Jobs was overly simplistic in his observation – the next decade will tell.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – from Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign (1997)

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Fish & Chips with Woz

by Philip Bendall (Managing Director of Segway New Zealand)

Today I ate fish & chips* with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple – perhaps the most valuable company in the world today.

Woz is in Auckland preparing for his Steve Wozniak Live seminar tomorrow, and there was time for Steve Simms (Tomizone), Seeby Woodhouse (Voyager, Green Carbon, founder of Orcon), Andrew Somervell (Eventfinder, The Beer Festival, Biggie) and myself to enjoy a leisurely lunch at Jack Tars, North Wharf on Wynyard Quarter, Auckland.

I first met Woz five years ago, when we each captained our respective Segway Polo teams at the world’s first international championship held in Auckland, February 2006. The Aftershocks and the Pole Blacks were the only two teams in the world competing for the freshly minted Woz Challenge Cup back in February 2006, but by the following year three US teams faced the Pole Blacks in San Francisco (Seeby and Andrew were our best two players that year, with Rod Drury (Xero, Trade-Me) completing our team of five players along with Steve Simms and myself). This year at least 16 teams will compete at the 2012 tournament in Stockholm next month. 

Woz remarked it was so nice to have time out of his busy schedule to just relax in Auckland again with friends he hadn’t seen for a while. I mentioned one of my favourite memories was the surreal experience of him and I driving around Cupertino, California, in his Hummer he’d fitted out with radars for hurricane chasing. Competing on the Polo Field at Gold Gate Park in sight of the famous bridge was pretty cool too.

Woz spend the morning enjoying a Magic Broomsticks Segway Tour of Devonport, calling it “just the most beautiful place to see by Segway PT”. Owner Pauline Baker was thrilled to take Woz on a guided tour of the many historic and picturesque sights – the nautically themed township, North Head with its ancient ‘disappearing gun’ and tunnels, Mount Victoria with the best 360 degree views of Auckland. Pauline has also loaned Woz the use of a Segway PT to use during this 4 days in Auckland. Woz is not only a great fan of the Segway PT, but is often seen getting around on one. He’s famous for queuing up at a local Apple Store on a Segway PT to buy the latest iPhone on launch day (nicely parodied here).

As you can imagine, these five technology entrepreneurs talked non-stop throughout lunch about all manner of topics, including waxing lyrical about the coming Technology Singularity. We were interrupted only once by an enthralled member of the public who recognised Woz and came over to introduce himself, thanking him for inventing the personal computer and thus forever changing the world.

Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak and Philip Bendall, 20 May 2012. Woz is on a Magic Broomsticks Segway PT and Philip clasps his signed copy of iWoz – Steve Wozniaks autobiography.

* Fish and chips is a favourite Kiwi takeaway (fast food) meal, although today we ate it as a sit-down restaurant meal. Foreigners insist New Zealanders pronounce it as “fush and chups” when they hear us say it, but yeah, yeah, nah mate, they’re just hearing funny, Bro’.

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Uni-Pod pre-dates Honda’s UNI-CUB by 33 years

(or, Predicting the Future: Part 2)

Automobile Quarterly is an American hardbound, advertising-free periodical first published in 1963. Describing itself as “The connoisseur’s magazine of motoring today, yesterday and tomorrow” it is well-known for the quality of its writing.

The Spring, 1969 issue featured an a 10 page article “Today’s family car is a fraud. What about tomorrow’s?” that concluded with a wonderful artwork depicting the Uni-Pod.

The Uni-Pod is described as “…a suggestion for maximum personal mobility in a dense ‘pedestrian-type’ traffic mix, envisioned for the coming mega-structure environments and multi-level commercial areas. Gyros maintain stability and directional control and a pancake-type motor in the wheel provides propulsion and braking.”

As depicted, the physics seem a little impractical (or impossible): the Uni-Pod appears to feature an encased 30cm spinning gyroscope in the near-vertical plane positioned at the posterior of the rider. The Uni-Pod’s “bubble” would protect riders from the elements and injuries, but would act as a wind sail in outdoor conditions. Some Segway PT owners have built “weather bubbles” for their PTs only to be surprised by the power of the wind on gusty days.

Overall, the general idea isn’t a million miles away from real, 21st Century commercial devices that you can buy today – the Segway Personal Transporter (PT) and the SoloWheel. As a prediction of a 21st century future, this part of the Automobile Quarterly article from 33 years ago is surprisingly accurate. Indeed, in another 17 years it may well fare better than many of the predictions in Auckland in Fifty Years (or, Predicting the Future: Part 1).

In addition to the available Segway PT there are are a variety of prototypes and areas of research focusing on “…personal mobility in a dense ‘pedestrian-type’ traffic mix…” such as the Segway P.U.M.A/GM EN-V, the Toyota Winglet and the Honda UNI-CUB (this link has a video that shows off its unique Omni drive).

Left to right: Segway PT (first generation HT i167), SoloWheel, Honda UNI-CUB, Segway PT (second generation PT i2)

Somewhat surprisingly, a decade on from the launch of the Segway PT LA Times’s coverage of the UNI-CUB by Deborah Netburn still exhibits the same lazy journalism often seen back then, where journalists make the simplistic claim that the UNI-CUB will make people lazy, or that is not a suitable replacement for a mobility scooter because it lacks a seat with a back. Obviously, a seat with a back could be fitted, and as tens of thousands of disabled users of Segway PTs know a seat is not even necessary for superior mobility. The LA Times writer also claims “Unlike the Segway, it is small enough to be used indoors”, failing to observe that the maximum width of both devices is the width of the rider’s shoulders, not the footprint of either device (length from knee to rear wheel on the UNI-CUB is also equal to the length of a rider standing on a Segway PT). It seems astonishing that ten years after its introduction a major newspaper could claim the Segway PT is too large for indoor use. The Segway PT i-series and p-series models have been specifically designed to be the correct size for indoor environments, and almost 100,000 are being used in dense pedestrian traffic areas every day, all around the world.

*****

Many thanks to the New Zealand Segway PT owner who loaned Segway NZ the original copy of this edition of Automobile Quarterly so we could scan it. We are always interested in and fascinated by such materials.

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See us at SpeedShow – 21-22 July 2012

We love the SpeedShow and this year’s event (21-22 July) is going to be awesome. In addition to every Segway Personal Transporter (PT) there is going to be just about every transport-related machine you can imagine, including….Jetman!

See this daredevil race across the sky above the Ezybuy arena. A jetpack has been the dream of every boy since about 5 years of age, and while you won’t get to fly one like Philip Bendall got to fly the Martin Jetpack, you’ll get to see Jetman’s personal rocket up close and in action at SpeedShow this year.

While jetpacks are a 21st century dream that remains out of reach, the Segway Personal Transporter is 21st century transportation that you can try, own and enjoy right now.

The latest in new motorcars, motorsport, motorcycles, arena action and more in just 66 days time.You might even get to see a smoking V8 vs PT challenge out on the tarmac….

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USA Today gets around Christchurch with Urban Wheels Segway Tour

USA Today travel writer Liz Lewis recommends taking a Segway Tour as the best way to discover quake-damaged Christchurch, in an article published in today’s issue.

Since the earthquakes, Christchurch hasn’t been the easiest city to get around.  Confronted by damaged roads, dead ends, detours, and a closed off central city, visitors (and locals) can often be seen staring at a map with a baffled look on their face, trying to figure out not only what’s left to see but more importantly, how to get there.

My recommendation would be to forget about the map altogether and join a Segway tour.  As I discovered recently, it’s a seriously fun way of checking out the ‘new’ Christchurch. Run by Graeme Gordon of Urban Wheels, each tour provides a running commentary about Christchurch – past and present.

Discovering Hagley Park and the historic Mona Vale on a Segway Tour

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