January 3, 2007 New Scientist’s patent-watcher Barry Fox unearthed a ripper this week when he came across a patent application from Sony dated November 23, 2006 that details a new motorized, balance-steered skateboard from the consumer electronics giant. The patent covers “a vehicle steerable by movement of center of gravity” but unlike the many conveyances which are steered by center of gravity movement, the Sony patent looks to have many applications and is pictured in the patent application as a two-, three- and four-wheeler and also as two two-wheeled devices akin to motorised rollerskates, with each wheel powered by its own electric motor. Though the article suggests that Sony hopes to compete with the Segway Human Transporter, we’re more inclined to see the Sony patent as being applicable to a more sporting variety of personal transportation with a definite emphasis on the youth market – unless Sony has found a way of overcoming basic Newtonian physics, riders of the new vehicles, however many wheels they might turn out to have, are likely to have to take a few tumbles in the process of learning to master the devices. There’s every likelihood that the research behind the patent emanates from Sony’s work in the area of partner robotics and personal transportation devices we reported here. Fascinating possibilities!
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