We've seen our fair share of personal mobility devices over the past few years -- from the ill-received Segway to Toyota's i-Real. Now, Honda's joining the minimalist motoring set with its own limb-atrophying U3-X.
Using technology originally developed for ASIMO the robot, the "U" in U3-X stands for both "universal" and "unicycle," and that's where the interesting tech resides. Housed within the large wheel are a series of smaller wheels that can rotate independently, allowing the awkwardly perched user to go forward, backward, side-to-side or diagonally. Like the Segway, the person piloting the U3-X simply leans in the desired direction to control the movement through the Honda Omni Traction Drive System (HOT).
Honda's keen to point out that the 22-pound U3-X is ultra-portable and easy to use, with fold away footrests and seat cushions. A single, lithium ion battery powers the electric motors up to one hour and the maximum speed is just a few ticks under four MPH.
We'll see the U3-X in person next month at the Tokyo Motor Show, but before then, you can get an eyeful in the gallery below and make the jump for several videos of the U3-X in action, along with Honda's press release.
Honda Develops Revolutionary New Personal Mobility Device to Work in Harmony with People
World's first driving system capable of 360 degree movement
Pursuing the concept of "harmony with people" Honda has developed a new personal mobility technology and unveiled U3-X, a compact experimental device to provide free movement in all directions just like human walking - forward, backward, side-to-side, and diagonally. Honda will continue research and development of the device including experiments in the real-world environment to verify the practicality of the device.
This new personal mobility device makes it possible to adjust speed, move, turn and stop in all directions when the rider leans their upper body to shift their body weight. This was achieved through application of advanced technologies including Honda's balance control technology, which was developed through ASIMO (Honda's bipedal humanoid robot) robotics research, and the world's first* omni-directional driving wheel system (Honda Omni Traction Drive System, or HOT Drive System), which enables movement in all directions, not only forward and backward, but also directly to the right and left and diagonally. In addition, the compact, one-wheel-drive personal mobility device was designed to be user friendly and unimposing to people around it. This is achieved by making it easy for the rider to reach the ground from the footrest and by seating the rider at roughly the same eye level as a person standing.
Honda is planning to showcase the U3-X at the 41st Tokyo Motor Show 2009 (sponsored by JAMA) which will begin on 24th October 2009 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba, Japan.
Honda has been conducting robotics research since 1986 at the Honda R&D Co., Ltd. Fundamental Technology Research Center in Wako, Saitama, Japan, striving to develop the next-generation mobility products that bring joy to our customers. These research projects includes ASIMO, walking assist devices and U3-X.
* Based on Honda's internal research
Key features of U3-X
Free movement just like human walking
1. The device is controlled by application of balance control technology refined through ASIMO research. The incline sensor detects the tilt of the device created by the weight shift of the rider and subsequently determines the rider's intention in terms of direction and speed. Based on the data, precise control is applied to return the device to an upright position, which allows for smooth and agile movements and simple operation.
2. HOT Drive System (Omni-directional driving wheel system):Honda has developed the world's first wheel structure which enables movement in all directions including forward, backward, side-to-side and diagonally. Multiple small-diameter motor-controlled wheels are connected in-line to form one large-diameter wheel. By moving the large-diameter wheel, the device moves forward and backward, and by moving small-diameter wheels, the device moves side-to-side. By combining these movements the device can also move diagonally.
Compact and innovative package
3. Slim enough to ride between legs and carry with one arm : The combination of the balance control technology and the HOT Drive System enabled the one-wheel style compact and innovative package of the device. In addition, the monocoque body houses the folding seat, foot rests and body cover, which also acts as the frame, making the device light weight and portable.
Key specifications of the experimental model:
Weight: less than 10kg
Battery Type: Lithium ion battery
Operation time (with fully charged battery): 1 hour