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Scooters

The Loomo Segway is a robot sidekick you can ride

It's part scooter and part robot with a lot of possibilities.

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The Loom is part Segway and part robot.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Like many kids who grew up watching Star Wars, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. It wasn't just his Jedi ways and lightsaber that tempted me, but also R2-D2, the droid that followed him to the ends of the galaxy. Though we're still years away from having our own personal robots like R2, the Loomo is taking us a step closer to that reality.

The Loomo is a Segway MiniPro and doubles as a robot and a personal transporter. Imagine if Luke could ride atop his beeping rustbucket to get around. It's made by Segway, which is owned by Ninebot.

"We just really want to make a cool damn robot," said a Segway spokesperson.

In a sense, Segway has done just that. As a scooter, the Loomo is a blast. I was able to try one and after a couple of awkward attempts, I was zipping around in no time. The self-balancing scooter is much more robust and smooth to ride than a hoverboard.

But the real fun begins when you dismount the scooter and press the button on the knee rest. That's when the Loomo turns into a self-driving robot.

The top of the knee rest rotates around and becomes a "head." There's a display with a blue circle that is quick to identify you. The lifting handles on the sides even look like little arms, but sadly, they're just plain old handles.

An accompanying smartphone app lets you remotely control the Loomo and drive it around. You can also type words into the app for the robot to speak. The voice sounds like the WOPR computer from the film "WarGames."

Now playing: Watch this: Loomo aims to be part Segway and part robot
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The Loomo runs on Android and has its own apps shown on the head's display. It can take pictures, record video and follow you around. There's an Intel RealSense sensor array that detects your face and body. You don't even have to face it in order for it to follow you too. Granted, I demoed this in a tiny room, so it may respond differently when there's more space.

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Loomo's head has a display and HD camera that can capture photos and videos.

Patrick Holland/CNET

This follow mode is the Loomo's most promising feature. You could ride the Loomo to the store and have it carry your grocery bags as you walk home: Albeit it can carry any bag that fits on its foot wells. With minimal alterations, I could easily envision the Loomo being used as a robot golf caddy following you from hole-to-hole carrying your bag of golf clubs. 

At this point though, the Loomo still feels like a novelty. If you're going to buy a Segway MiniPro, having it transform into a robot is a tempting add-on. And for some people, showing off your daily scooter's robotic side would be fun. But it's hard to envision a majority of users using it as a robot after the charm has worn off.

The true potential for the Loomo has yet to be identified. It's a niche product looking for its niche. And perhaps that's why Ninebot is running a crowdsourcing campaign on IndieGoGo. By launching the product this way, the company hopes to hear from early adopters about how they might use a Loomo. Early bird pricing starts at $1,299 (roughly £940 or AU$1,670 converted). As of March 7, Segway has exceeded its initial Indiegogo goal of $100,000.

Editors' note: CNET's reporting on crowdfunding campaigns is not an endorsement of the project or its creators. Before contributing to any campaign, read the crowdfunding site's policies to find out your rights (and refund policies, or the lack thereof) before and after a campaign ends.

First published Mar. 6, at 6 a.m. PT
Update, Mar. 7 at 11:05 a.m. PT: Adds crowdfunding results