The poster child for this failure is, of course, the Segway. Though completely awesome, its greatest success has come in comedic appearances on television (Arrested Development) and in the movies (Paul Blart: Mall Cop). But manufacturers have forged ahead, undaunted in their desire to bring human-like mobility to humans. The latest: The Honda Uni-Cub.
An evolution of Honda's U3-X motorized unicycle, the Uni-Cub marries a saddle and sturdy base with an omni-directional drive wheel. A rider controls the Uni-Cub by simply shifting their weight. Honda says it is "designed for harmony with people," as the device positions the rider at relatively the same height as pedestrians, rather than towering over them like a Segway rider.
The Uni-Cub is designed for use indoors, and is powered by a lithium-ion battery and electric drive. It can reach a top speed of 3.7 miles per hour and has a range of 3.7 miles, meaning that any reasonably fit individual should be able to both outrun and outlast the Uni-Cub.
Honda will begin demonstration testing of the device in June.
Scroll down to read the full press release and watch a video of the Uni-Cub in action, and be sure to check out all the images in our gallery.
TOKYO, Japan, May 15, 2012 - Honda Motor Co., Ltd. today unveiled the new UNI-CUB personal mobility device, designed for harmony with people. Featuring a compact design and comfortable saddle, UNI-CUB offers the same freedom of movement in all directions that a person enjoys while walking.
Representing the evolution of the U3-X personal mobility device that Honda announced in 2009, UNI-CUB features Honda's proprietary balance control technology and the world's first omni-directional driving wheel system (Honda Omni Traction Drive System). These technologies allow the rider to control speed, move in any direction, turn and stop, all simply by shifting his or her weight. Since the rider can freely move forward, backward, side-to-side and diagonally, he or she can quickly and easily maneuver among other people.
Moreover, UNI-CUB's compact saddle-style packaging makes it easy for the rider's legs to reach the ground and maintains eye-level height with other pedestrians. This configuration promotes harmony between the rider and others, letting the rider travel freely and comfortably inside facilities and among moving people.
Starting in June 2012, Honda will jointly conduct demonstration testing of UNI-CUB with Japan's National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. In addition to testing the feasibility of using UNI-CUB indoors, this project will explore the practical applications of the device in a wide range of environments in Japan and other countries.
The balance control technology of UNI-CUB is part of the Honda Robotics family of technologies, which originates with Honda's research into humanoid robots, including the world-famous ASIMO.
Going forward, Honda will continue its proactive research and development of next-generation mobility technologies, aiming always to offer more and more people the joy and fun that comes from freedom of movement.
Key specifications of UNI-CUB
Size (L x W x H) 520 x 345 x 745 mm
Seat height 745 - 825 mm
Battery type Lithium-ion battery
Maximum speed 6 km/h
Range 6 km
Application environment Barrier-free indoor environments
Key features of UNI-CUB
1. Omni-directional freedom of movement similar to human walking
UNI-CUB has a two-wheel configuration with a minimal wheelbase. The front wheel features the Honda Omni Traction Drive System that Honda first announced in 2009. The rear wheel moves laterally to facilitate turning. By leveraging the different rotational speeds of the front and rear wheel treads during lateral movements, UNI-CUB can move forwards and backwards, side-to-side and diagonally and also turn in place, making possible quick, nimble movement.
2. Movement in harmony with other people
Honda's proprietary balance control technology makes it possible for the rider to freely control the wheels of the UNI-CUB, much as human beings maintain their balance. With a design that takes into consideration the rider's environment, this system allows the rider to maneuver while moving side by side with or holding hands with another person.
3. Compact size for moving and climbing gradients in barrier-free indoor environments
Thanks to UNI-CUB's compact saddle-style packaging, the rider and vehicle together are about the same width as a person when walking. Optimized wheel design and high-precision drive/balance control enhance UNI-CUB's ability to climb gradients in barrier-free indoor environments.
4. Weight shift control combined with touch panel control
When the rider is using weight shift control, UNI-CUB's incline sensor detects the direction in which the rider is leaning, allowing UNI-CUB to calculate the direction and speed intended by the rider. And touch panel control via smartphone and other devices is another convenient control option.