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Gadgets

Segway, eat your heart out. We try the Honda UNI-CUB

Walking is so last century. Humanity is evolving to put motorized wheels under our feet. First we had Segways, then hoverboards and now the UNI-CUB from Honda.

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At some point in history after humans climbed out of the primordial sludge and walked upright, we probably asked ourselves how we could minimize this whole walking thing as much as possible.

One answer apart from outright sloth: the personal mobility device. Y'know, wheels to carry you around so you don't have to. They've shown up in one form to another -- scooters, carts, mini cars -- always reborn with the promise that we'll spend less time trudging around.

The latest entry is Honda's UNI-CUB. The device, which isn't for sale yet, is 24.4-inches tall, weighs about 55 pounds and goes up to four miles per hour, is kinda like a motorized self-balancing unicycle, except all you do is sit on it and lean in the direction you want to go.

It's hard not to snicker at some of this. My editor joked about how this is all just another step toward being those rotund people on "Wall-E."

There's another thing holding these devices back, too: They don't match up to our fanciful dreams.

Remember how hoverboards had that nagging tendency to catch fire?

And devices like the Segway tend to make you look pretty geeky. You might have seen them piloted by a flock of tourists in the downtown of some city, taking in the sights. Or, as a recurring punchline of misguided ego and ineffectiveness. "Arrested Development's" Gob Bluth stubbornly drove his Segway through any terrain. Paul Blart, noted mall cop, earned himself no street cred riding around his Segway. And don't forget about how "Weird Al" Yankovic took one for a stroll while singing about being "White & Nerdy."

Now, there are serious reasons why some folks use these things. They help people get around who might have physical health problems that make a pleasant stroll through a museum a burdensome ordeal.

Either way, an August 2016 report from Transparency Market Research projects the personal mobility device market will hit double from last year to about $14.6 billion by 2024.

The firm didn't say what percentage of that comes from facilities like museums offering rides to visitors so they can scoot from ancient artifact to ancient artifact.

Meanwhile, the takeover of our society by these wheely things is happening, 4 mph at a time. The mall by my apartment rents motorized scooters done up like animals, so on any given Saturday morning, you can watch a wild-eyed 6-year-old sail past you on a scooter that looks like a lion got stuffed mid-stride.

It all makes you wonder what activities these devices will replace next. Perhaps I can get a robot to talk for me too.