Saturday, August 2, 2008

Winglet: Just Like Segway, Except Slower and Not Available

At first I thought that Toyota's planners had lost it.

The company's coming out with Winglet, a sort of Segway lookalike. Except that Winglet won't go more than a little over half as fast as Segway, and won't be commercially available.

The Winglet is designed to help people get around at shopping malls and airports. And, it's supposed to be safe and easy enough for anyone to use: even the elderly. Which sounds great, except that if Toyota isn't planning to sell the things, who's going to use them? Unless Toyota is giving the gadgets away?

There seem to be different sorts of Winglet, judging from photos in an Associated Press article - and my best guess as to what the caption was supposed to mean. (I'm not at all sure that whoever wrote this is entirely comfortable with English: "...The one at left, that weighs 9.9-kg (22-lb) is folded for carrying purpose. The other two weigh 12.3-kg (27-lb).")

One may have a sort of post-and-handle arrangement like the Segway, but the other puts me in mind of a science fiction skateboard: with a sort of rack between the rider's feet. The rack goes up to knee level. It's either to help the rider hang on, or maybe to provide a challenge for anyone trying to get off.

That's the impression I kept, until reading the whole article.

Toyota's Winglet isn't the Japanese automaker's attempt to outdo the Edsel. It seems to be a sort of combination concept vehicle and testbed. They're talking about equipping it with AI of a sort, so it can go and recharge itself. The idea is that you could call your Winglet, and it would come to carry you away: with information about what's available at stores in the area.

Not a bad idea, actually.

"Toyota tests Segway-like stand-up-and-ride machine" (Associated Press (August 1, 2008)) is a pretty good writeup on Winglet.

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