Honda Rolls Out Electric Unicycle

Moves like a Segway, glides like a robot. It may look a little awkward despite the smooth ride, but apparently this alternative "personal mobility device" is a cinch to zip around in. Well, there's no zooming exactly, at four mph--that's a brisk walk. The U3-X prototype, just unveiled by Honda yesterday, has "infinite possibilities," says a company spokesperson. Where would you use it? Or would you?Actually, there are no plans to sell this electric unicycle to the public. Instead the idea is to initially use it in airports and hotels. What about the benefits of biking? Or walking? Or human-powered unicycles? Clearly, this little silver gizmo is designed for very long commutes--indoors. But smaller than a bike, it weighs only 10 kilos/22 pounds, so is easily movable, and the lithium battery lasts one hour.

Segway without handlebars?

Similar to Segway, the U3-X adjusts with a rider's weight shift via sensors, determining direction with an internal balancing control of many miniature wheels inside its singular wheel -- so it always stays upright. Basically a stool on a wheel, it features a multi-directional system. Just lean to the left, lean to the right, backwards, forwards, and diagonally, too.

And also like Segway, there's probably limited marketability for the product today. It's not exactly a reasonable replacement for a wheelchair. Slicker than a walker, it could help some people with limited mobility, though it might be best suited for maneuvering through congested spaces, especially in high heels. This futuristic experimental electric vehicle will be wheeled out at the Tokyo Motor Show next month to show-off its engineering breakthrough in robotic transportation technology.

Intended as a way to "bring harmony to the mobile relationship between people and machines," Honda president Takanobu Ito said, "We believe this is the first step in realizing the fun of human transportation and expanding that joy indefinitely."

The vehicle's chief engineer, Yasuhisa Arai, added they're open to "lots of ideas about how to use it, particularly from the younger generation." High-tech clowning? Xtreme sports competitions? How about something useful...anyone?

via AFP
More on "personal mobility devices:"
Magic Wheel: Cross Between Skateboard, Unicycle and Rollerblades
Electric Uno Bike: A Clean Commute?
Marking the Spot: The X Bike Concept
HyperBike: Hype or Hope?

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