Segway lite? Toyota’s ‘Winglet’ aims to turn us into wheeled Wall-E fatties

Tons of crazy inventions come out of Japan Inc. each year. Heck, each week. Some are awesome (turn plastic into oil!), some, like the Winglet, make us cringe a little bit. Have we not seen this before?

We get it: Japanese cities, especially the big ones like Tokyo, are crazy crowded. Most people do not drive cars, they use the efficient and often claustrophobically crowded train system. Once they squeeze back out of the trains, they walk or bicycle back home to their claustrophobically small homes.

Having seen this human Tetris train game play out in person, its obvious there’s no space on the trains for a Segway-sized personal mobility machine, so if you’re tired of walking from whistle stop to foyer, what to do? Winglet. It’s small, foldable, faster than walking and even kinda cool, in a super nerdy way. First seen as prototypes in 2008, they are now undergoing public trials.

But please, Japan, just don’t do it. Keep walking. Don’t turn into this. You’ll never forgive yourself. Just buy comfortable shoes, even really techie ones. I saw very few overweight Japanese citizens while I was there, likely because everyone was walking or biking, not Wingleting. Don’t turn Japan into the Isle of Axiom.

I get that the Winglet is part of a larger mobility scheme for people on the move. Planes, trains, automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards and push scooters I understand. Segways/Winglets for those who can’t walk or ride I understand. But if you can put one foot in front of the other, like people have been doing to keep fit and in motion for millennia, I think that’s a good skill we should retain and reinforce. Think of the children.

Besides, this Winglet thing is just another step toward empowering mobile robot overlords, which is that other craziness Japan should probably put a halt to.

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