When it comes to weird futuristic things, Silicon Valley leads in smart cars, and Japan in creepy robots, but China is now at the forefront in... smartphone-controlled scooters.
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Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi and its scooter-making startup Ninebot unveiled a bargain Segway-like scooter Monday. The Ninebot Mini can be controlled by the smartphone and costs only 1,999 yuan ($316), a fraction of the price of a Segway.
Chinese startup Ninebot scooted from obscurity to the top of the global self-balancing scooter sector in April when it acquired Segway with Xiaomi's backing. Analysts were skeptical at whether Segway would be a good investment, but Xiaomi said it was part of its plan to build out an ecosystem of Xiaomi-connected devices.
The low price of the Ninebot Mini could give Segways one more shot at becoming the vehicle of the future. While Segways were originally launched to great hype in 2001, they failed to go mainstream due to their high price tag. Segway's most affordable model, the i2 SE, starts at $6,499. Ninebot's Segway-like vehicle costs 14,900 yuan ($2,342), significantly cheaper but still pricey.
Xiaomi is now betting on the popularity of the Ninebot Mini in the land where police, at least, have long favored scooting for transportation.
The Ninebot Mini will be available only in China for now.
--Eva Dou. Follow her on Twitter @evadou.