Would you commute on a self-balancing unicycle?

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Electronic Unicycle or New Segway?

Segways never really became mainstream, and hopes of a real-life hoverboard -- for everyone --are still years away. But that doesn't mean the bicycle has no competitors. Joining the movement of personal vehicles is the Ninebot One: a robotic one-wheeled personal transport system, which might soon be commonplace on the street.

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It looks like a Segway, a roller skate and a unicycle mashed into one. To ride it, place your feet on the shelflike platform protruding from the main wheel. Then, when balanced, you adjust your body weight to move. Lean forward to speed up, move back to slow down. Powered by an internal battery that charges in two hours, it can achieve speeds of 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) per hour and travels 10-30 kms (6-18 miles) per charge.

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Would you commute on a self-balancing unicycle?
Spain's Manuel Foix Robert (L) and Victoria Gomez Gamez pose with their invention, a protective case made with tissue that can be used for food and plants, during the opening day of the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, on April 18, 2012. More than 789 exhibitors from 46 countries are present at one of the world's largest exhibition of the devoted to innovation from April 18th to 22th in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Germany's Ulli Boehme poses with his invention, the 'Ball Rider' a new sport and leisure vehicle equipped with large balls as wheels, during the opening day of the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions in Geneva, on April 18, 2012. More than 789 exhibitors from 46 countries are present at one of the world's largest exhibition of the devoted to innovation from April 18th to 22th in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
South Korean Lee Beom Seok poses with his invention, a multifonction portable tool for clothing against bacteria, odor, hydratation and can also work as air purifier during the opening day of the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva, April 18, 2012. The More than 789 exhibitors from 46 countries are present at one of the world's largest exhibition of the devoted to innovation from April 18th to 22th in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
People play in a 'Football Box', an invention for children which allows them to play in a miniature-sized football arena and was invented by Venezuelan Jose Pires Tavares, during the opening day of the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions, in Geneva, on April 18, 2012. The More than 789 exhibitors from 46 countries are present at one of the world's largest exhibition of the devoted to innovation from April 18th to 22th in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Taiwan's Yong-Fu Chang presents his invention, two teddy bears connected by Wi-Fi via the Internet equipped with microphones and speakers, during the opening day of the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions, in Geneva, on April 18, 2012. More than 789 exhibitors from 46 countries are present at one of the world's largest exhibition of the devoted to innovation from April 18th to 22th in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Italy's Marco Pagnini presents his invention, a suspender for carrying an umbrella without using hands during opening day of the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, on April 18, 2011. More than 789 exhibitors from 46 countries are present at one of the World's largest exhibition devoted to innovation from April 18th to 22th in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Andre Piatetsky form the US presents his invention, a treatment hairbrush fitted with a liquid-reservoir that disperse treatment solution over the user's scalp during hair brushing at the opening day of the 40th International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva, on April 18, 2011. More than 789 exhibitors from 46 countries are present at one of the World's largest exhibition devoted to innovation from April 18th to 22th in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
France's Laurent Helewa poses with his invention, a toilet kit, during the opening day of the 39th International Exhibition of Inventions, on April 6, 2010 in Geneva. Helewa's invention is a foldable and reusable system of a dry, portable disposable toilet designed for nomadic, family or even military use in case there is not a functional toilet nearby. More than 765 exhibitors from 45 countries are present at one of the World's largest exhibition devoted to innovation from April 6th to 10th in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Taiwan's Juang Ying-Shen poses with her invention, high heels with interchangeable components, during the opening day of the 39th International Exhibition of Inventions, on April 6, 2010 in Geneva. More than 765 exhibitors from 45 countries are present at one of the World's largest exhibition devoted to innovation from April 6th to 10th in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
France's Jean-Marc Batard pose with his children next to his invention, a pyramidal water-saving garden which allows elderly people to garden, during the opening day of the 39th International Exhibition of Inventions, on April 6, 2010 in Geneva. More than 765 exhibitors from 45 countries are present at one of the World's largest exhibition devoted to innovation from April 6 to April 10, in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JANUARY 6: EXCLUSIVE A urinal that has a video game console above it in the SEGA World complex in Akihabara Electric Town, Tokyo, Japan. For men a stroll to the gents has become a leap into the twenty first century, thanks to the SEGA video games corporation. The company has developed a new entertainment system which is incorporated into a public lavatory. Now rows of peeing men can spend a penny and get a great video game experience while they are at it. The 'Toylet' male urinal video game provides a choice of sumo wrestling, erasing graffiti and dousing an exploding volcano. The 'Toylet' works by a pressure sensor in the base of the urinal measuring the strength and location of the urine stream as it hits the basin. An LCD screen displays the game graphics and rewards the strength, length and accuracy of the pee through a typical video game points system. There are currently no plans for a multiplayer version of the 'Toylet'. (Photo by Matthew Tabaccos / Barcroft Medi / Getty Images)
Southern Taiwan University's Tang Jing-Jou poses with his invention, a billards table with trajectory recording capabilities during the opening day of the 39th International Exhibition of Inventions, on April 6, 2010 in Geneva. The billard table is designed to have sensors and LED indicators under its surface used to record the trajectory of the ball and show the strength in every shot. More than 765 exhibitors from 45 countries are present at one of the World's largest exhibition devoted to innovation from April 6 to 10 in Geneva. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
Frenchman Dimitri Gauer poses with his invention, the 'crustacean peeler', during the opening day of the 36th International Exhibition of Inventions, on April 1, 2009 in Geneva. The device peels sea food, facilitating their ingestion for diners. More than 710 exhibitors from 45 countries are present at the exhibition, one of the World's largest devoted to innovation. AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI (Photo credit should read FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON - AUGUST 14: In this photo illustration a moustach guard is displayed at the British Library on August 14, 2008 in London, England. Over 50 ingenious inventions and gadgets have gone on display at the British Library. (Photo illustration by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
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But how easy is it to master? The average learning cycle is about three days, but someone with strong coordination can "learn in 15 minutes," according to the Ninebot Chinese office (answers translated by Marty Krycki, Ninebot Inc. U.S. marketing/distribution director). I spent around five minutes hands-on at Las Vegas' Consumer Electronics Show 2015 and fell off three times, with maybe five seconds of actual balancing. For those not initially comfortable zipping around in circles, training wheels (blush) are also available. There's also a two-wheeled Ninebot option for those with deeper pockets.

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The Ninebot office says that they were inspired by sci-fi movies and wanted to create something that would give riders "butterflies" to use. They see their target user as aged 15-30 — people who appreciate their "futuristic look." The Ninebot One has an ergonomic design, with a 16-inch pneumatic tire, padded leg rests and full waterproofing. A neat pull-out handle lets you tote it around like a heavy purse — it's 12.8 kilograms (28 pounds). Other bells and whistles include a Bluetooth app that changes the colors of the LED lights in the wheel, making them blink, flash and glow at your whim. An alarm function makes the lights glow red and vibrate if someone attempts to steal the device. So, pretty and practical.

Robert Enderle, technology analyst from the Enderle group, isn't sure if the Ninebot One -- and other, similar electric unicycles -- are really viable travel systems. And while he thinks they have potential, "right now they're more toys than transportation." He also expressed concerns about the safety of the device in a real-time traffic situation, since electric bikes and scooters often fall under the same safety rules of motor products. "The closer you get to toys, the more you worry about injuries," he says.

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At $830, buyers are unlikely to want a Ninebot One purely for recreation. As a commuting option, this might just be the tech elite's new bicycle. However, best to avoid those highways.

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