For a little while in 2001 New Hampshire was the center of the geek world when Dean Kamen and his Manchester-area R&D firm DEKA introduced the Segway, the self-balanced vehicle. It was like magic, using sensors and intelligent electric motors to stay upright. I saw an early demonstration of the upright wheelchair that DEKA produced with the technology and it was mind-blowing. (The wheelchair never took off, partly because it didn’t get classified as a medical device that could get Medicare or insurance reimbursement.)
The Segway, of course, didn’t revolutionize mobility – perhaps because it looked kind of silly, although that argument carry less weight today when electric scooters, which look just as silly, are thriving. But it was an interesting niche product and catapulted Kamen to worldwide fame, which has helped him push his true love, the FIRST Robotics competition, and his lead3rof turning Manchester into a biotechnology hub.
But now the Segway is history. It will be officially retired by Ninebot, a Chinese robotics firm that bought the technology in 2015. Ninebot is doing some interesting things with the self-balancing technology – they’ve got one mini-Segway that will follow you around – but the classic handlebar standup two-wheel Segway won’t be one of them.
Segway said that it had sold 140,000 of these devices overall. Twenty-one employees will lose their jobs at the manufacturing plant in Bedford, the company said.
Here’s a Gizmodo story with more details.