The rumors began circulating in 2001 about something called The Ginger Project, or simply “It.” Talk of changing the world, of reorganizing cities, of "Reinventing the Wheel"—as Time Magazine called it in one article title—all of these hopes were in the air.
The project was backed by $90 million dollars of private money and had endorsements from tech stars like Steve Jobs.
The "It" product received vague hype and free publicity. But for what? Everyone wanted to know: what is "It"?
The curtain lifted in December on Good Morning America. A petite man stood upright on a two-wheeled scooter called the Segway PT. The designer Dean Kamen explained, “What Henry Ford did in the last century for rural America is what this device will do in the next century for city dwellers.”
The Segway had lofty goals of revolutionizing the inner-city walk and overshadowing the Internet.
But the subsequent years were rough: George bush famously found a way to fall head-first off a Segway; sales dragged at a price point of almost $5,000 dollars; and finally, the 6,000 Segways that made their way to the streets were recalled after low batteries risked them tipping over.
The Segway has found it hard to maneuver away from tragedy. The businessman and philanthropist Jimi Heselden bought the brand in 2010, but died that same year after running his Segway off a cliff.
But the product slowly found its place: golf courses, police departments, big studio lots, and city tours. It has slowly become a vehicle less about digital extensions of our bodies and more about transportation.