Just when it looked as though there might never be a solution to the problem of walking, Honda today unveiled the U3-X personal mobility device, a sci-fi-looking, unicycle-ish mobile stool that moves forward, backward, side-to-side, or diagonally in response to a simple adjustment in the user’s body weight.
The U3-X remains upright by utilizing balance control technology that Honda developed while researching ASIMO, Honda’s famous bipedal humanoid robot. Its omni-directional driving system appears to be a single wheel, though the “larger-diameter” wheel (which rolls forward and backward) is actually made up of a several smaller wheels that enable it to move side to side. A combination of forward or backward thrust and lateral thrust produces diagonal motion.
Looking at the U3-X, we’re reminded of the Segway (and all the commercial success that came with it). To be fair, the U3-X was designed to aid the elderly, but it seems like the balance needed to operate the machine might pose a bit of a hazard for those who already have mobility problems. Still, the unit is designed to keep the user’s feet close to the ground while keeping the user’s carriage upright enough to be nearly eye-level with other people who are standing up.
The prototype model of the U3-X (in action below) weighs just shy of 22 pounds and can roll for about an hour on a single charge to its lithium-ion power source. When a commercial version might become available is anyone’s guess. Personally, we’re not holding our breath.