Monday, March 5, 2007

Segway Robot

I guess this must happen to everyone: you have a great idea and five years later someone else has the same idea, made it real and making a ton of money out of it. I often wish I could write patents or some such. (Anyway all this is too close to a future project so I won't say anymore except what the title suggests: Segway robots).

Many years ago... 1996, I developed a cartoon character called "The Little Robot" which I wanted to animate. As anyone even doing animation knows animating legs and humans are tricky. Hey, much easier to create a robot than ran on wheels. If the Robot was a cylinder then, in order to show it turning, it was a just matter of moving the eyes, arms and wheels! Needless to say the character appeared in a couple of demonstration programs and then sunk into obscurity.

I never really considered how the robot was suppose to balance upright on just two wheels. That would just be silly! Even though the Little Robot had artificial intelligence and a sense of humour, the wheel balancing act was the ridiculous thing!

Then "Ginger" turned up: The Segway Human Transporter(HT). Spookily similar proportions to the Little Robots wheel system and I thought... that Segway would be excellent as a robot platform just like my 1996 creation! But to make anything other than have the idea would mean time, money, skill, energy etc. No, all I have are a few synaptic reflexes... Some months ago, I was watching the BBC doing a review of the technology in Korea. Lots of robots! Lots of technology! It must be every geeks dream to live out there. And then on the TV show, out in the background was a robot on two wheels, cylindrical body, domed head, big friendly eyes: the splitting image of my own Little Robot cartoon character! I feel like calling out lamely "Hey that's MY idea. It's copyright. Or something!"

Moral of the story: I need to think up something a little more futuristic next time! It's no good working on ideas that other people are going to have.

The only reason I mention all this stuff now, is that when I visited Florida recently, I went on a Segway HT. The second generation "i2" model; you lean to one side to make it turn. Wow! What fun! I couldn't remove the smile from my face for the rest of the day. I definitely recommend. I've booked a tour for later in March. I can't wait. They may be too expensive to buy and not practical for everyday life. But make sure you have a go on one. They are a hoot! Imagine skiing without the snow, the cold, the face cream and expensive jet flights to the Alps (or wherever), and you start to get the picture. Environmentally friendly transport? Maybe not. Environment friendly entertainment? You bet!

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