Japan's Honda unveils futuristic unicyle (w/ Video)

Sep 24, 2009
Honda President Takanobu Ito displays the prototype model of a personal mobility device called the 'U3-X', at the company's headquarters in Tokyo. Honda Motor on Thursday unveiled the experimental electric unicycle with inbuilt balance control, a bit of advanced technology Honda borrowed from ASIMO, its humanoid robot.

It looks a bit like a plastic figure of eight, and its Japanese designers say it could revolutionise the way we get around, in total comfort and without breaking a sweat.

Honda Motor on Thursday unveiled an experimental electric unicycle with inbuilt control, a bit of advanced technology Honda borrowed from ASIMO, its .

Riders steer it by shifting their upper body to move in any direction -- forward, backward or diagonally.

"We believe this is the first step in realising the fun of human transportation and expanding the joy indefinitely," Honda president Takanobu Ito told reporters taking a glimpse at Japan's latest high-tech .

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The U3-X moves forward and backward with the use of its single wheel, which in turn is made up of a string of perpendicular smaller wheels that can move the vehicle left and right. Combine both, and the vehicle swiftly moves diagonally.

It can run for one hour on a single charge of its which propels the device at roughly the walking speed of an adult, six kilometres (3.7 miles) per hour.

The U3-X is 65 centimetres (about 26 inches) tall and weighs less than 10 kilograms (22 pounds).

Its chief engineer, Yasuhisa Arai, said Honda had no immediate plans to sell the device but was looking for fun for potential uses.

"Today is the first day we have presented this technological achievement, and we look forward to receiving lots of ideas about how to use this, particularly from the younger generation," Arai said.

Honda said it would continue its research and development of the device, including some real-world experiments, to verify its practicality.

In a visual presentation, Honda pictured some fun uses it imagines for the U3-X -- a group of people on an outing, a teenager using it for skateboard style acrobatics, and even a rider-less version serving up cocktails.


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User comments : 12

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danman5000
3 / 5 (4) Sep 24, 2009
its Japanese designers say it could revolutionise the way we get around


Just like the Segway did, right? Oh wait.
Angus_P__Magilicutty
3.5 / 5 (4) Sep 24, 2009
Segway is too expensive, and a motorized unicycle looks like fun. New technologies need to be affordable. I'd guess that these will find applications given time. Someone once said that they couldn't see a need for more than maybe 5 computers in the world....
RayCherry
3.3 / 5 (4) Sep 24, 2009
Segway has suffered from legislation that makes it impractical in Portugal and many other countries. The locals made it illegal to use th Segway on the pavements, and using it on the roads is very dangerous - as is noted by the almost complete absence of peddle cyclists.

Expensive was the initial complaint of most, but this legislation basically killed the idea.

However, there are some Segways available for hire in Lisboa for the tourists to get around the old city, where traffic is minimal and the Segway takes the effort out of the steep hills.

If the Segway can be made legal for 'sidewalks', and the price made more comparible with a motor scooter, I still think there is a great future for such products.

Segway is dead? Long live the Segway, (and similar electric uni-person transportation).
Sean_W
2.8 / 5 (5) Sep 24, 2009
The technology of the Segway seems to have found a lot more uses in Robotics than in personal transport but it has found some niche applications. Granted, it is not the revolution in transport that was envisioned but it was a marvolous innovation.

For this thing to find applications in robotic it might need to be incorporated with something like really long arms for self-righting.
Towchain
3.9 / 5 (7) Sep 24, 2009
A salesman's dream. As customers get fatter and fatter from lack of exercise they will have to upgrade to larger and larger unicycles.
SmartK8
not rated yet Sep 24, 2009
It definitely needs some handles on the sides. Even that girl is somewhat unsure. Check for yourself: http://tinyurl.com/HondaU3-X
googleplex
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2009
Segway has suffered from legislation that makes it impractical in Portugal and many other countries. The locals made it illegal to use th Segway on the pavements, and using it on the roads is very dangerous - as is noted by the almost complete absence of peddle cyclists.

Expensive was the initial complaint of most, but this legislation basically killed the idea.

However, there are some Segways available for hire in Lisboa for the tourists to get around the old city, where traffic is minimal and the Segway takes the effort out of the steep hills.

If the Segway can be made legal for 'sidewalks', and the price made more comparible with a motor scooter, I still think there is a great future for such products.

Segway is dead? Long live the Segway, (and similar electric uni-person transportation).


Agreed. Same in many cities in USA. You can only ride them on the road which = death trap.
dirk_bruere
Sep 24, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
RobertKLR
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 24, 2009
Every few years Honda comes up with some little novelty and then it disappears. What is different here?
fixer
Sep 24, 2009
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Shiwa
3 / 5 (2) Sep 25, 2009
I wonder if theres a gyro in the upper ring shaped part of the bike...
bhiestand
5 / 5 (2) Sep 25, 2009
Every few years Honda comes up with some little novelty and then it disappears. What is different here?

I'd say its primary purpose is as a long-term R&D project, a concept most Americans seem to have forgotten. They're doing the R&D for the sake of doing the R&D, with no regard for its immediate applications. All that really matters, in the end, is that they now have some new tech and solutions that they can add to their toolkit... this could serve as the basis for the transportation systems for robots, nanobots, or any number of potential practical applications.

In the end, when someone says "Crap, we need a way to get this thing around on one wheel, and it needs to be totally upright like a human", Honda will have the solution.

Kudos to Honda, I'm glad somebody is still doing it!
Bob_Kob
not rated yet Sep 25, 2009
You can sit down on it, looks small and compact. Seems to be like it beats segway in every single aspect.

Anway I really respect Honda, I love seeing these technologies they create, and you just know a couple of decades down the track they and other technologies will come together into something great.
Mayday
1 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2009
Segway failed because it can be dangerous to pedestrians and riders, it is too large and too fast for sidewalk use, and has great difficulty with uneven surfaces, stairs, curbs and even the slightest side contact with any solid object. Then there's the sudden battery failure issue.

This Honda unicycle has uses, but faces some of the same questions. I would like to see a video of one of these traversing a real-world city-scape.

But I hope they keep working on it. It looks like fun. One bit of advice: they need to raise the rider about three inches. People's toes are too close to the ground and will catch on uneven surfaces. Ouch!