On Tuesday, Honda Motor Co. announced its new device, a personal mobility car that allows gliding around the office or the aquarium perched comfortably on what looks like a trash compactor on wheels.
As The Wall Street Journal explains, Honda’s latest device is guided by a small wheel that protrudes from the back. It was released in order to be used to get around the inside of large buildings like airports and museums.
Uni-Cub was developed based on Honda’s earlier robotic personal transport device, the U3-X, which was unveiled three years ago.
When seated on it, the rider is between the eye level of a pedestrian and a person in a chair. “This configuration promotes harmony between the rider and others, letting the rider travel freely and comfortably inside facilities among moving people,” Honda Motor Co. said in a statement.
“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,” the statement reads.
Moreover, one more advantage is the feature of the vehicle to calculate the direction and speed intended by the rider by detecting the direction in which he is leaning while using weight shift control. And touch panel control via smartphone and other devices is another convenient control option.
The device allows riders to move backward and forward, side-to-side or diagonally at a top speed of six kilometers per hour just by shifting their weight.
It is latest product of the robotic technologies Honda has been developing, the most recognizable example of which is probably the ASIMO humanoid robot, which appeared in 2000.
The device developers are most interested in how much value potential users will find in the vehicle, which will ultimately determine its price. An indication might be the price of the Segway, which costs around Y750,000 ($9,300).
According to the sources, the company plans to sell the UNI-CUB on a commercial basis. And as a step toward this, it will begin testing it in cooperation with Japan’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.
When asked about his impressions of riding the UNI-CUB, the museum’s director, Mamoru Mohri — who is also a former astronaut with NASA’s space shuttle program – described it as “floaty,” and “like being in zero-gravity.”
In addition to further testing 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, says Phys.org.
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.
Honda promised that it would continue its proactive research and development of next-generation mobility technologies, so it could always offer more and more people the joy and fun that comes from freedom of movement.