Honda Unveils U3-X Personal Mobility Device Ahead of Tokyo Motor Show

Honda U3-X Personal Mobility Device

As humans become lazier and lazier, society has seemingly decided that it is important for technology to facilitate our increasingly sedentary lives. Many people want to exert themselves as little as possible. And for those individuals there is a burgeoning industry of personal mobility devices. We are not talking about bicycles and such but electronic gizmos that whiz us on our way like the Jetsons. (Ok, so this isn’t a high-performance product yet with blitzing acceleration, but we still like to keep you up-to-date on the latest trends because in five years these things may actually zing…)

Blart on Segway

The Segway is perhaps the most well known of this ilk, and although not as well received as its creator may have liked, it did move the chains down field. Unfortunately, the cool factor goes right out the window when you see suburbanites with goofy helmets pushing these things along like they are super awesome or cops at the airport directing traffic like they just stepped out of Judge Dredd.

Toyota i-Real

Back in 2007, Toyota revealed their vision of the future, with humans using upright, joystick-operated, mechanical wheelchairs. Unfortunately, once again this missed the mark, as the i-Real resembled more of a high-design medical device for the handicapped than a mass market transportation machine.

Honda ASIMO Robot

But now, finally, it looks like someone may have found the right formula. Honda’s U3-X could be the hot ticket. Although the name sucks, this appliance is uber-cool. Some of you may recall the pint-sized ASIMO robot, the space-suit donning, walking, running and dancing cybernetic life force that created serious waves back in 2006 as a YouTube sensation. South Park made a famous parody when Cartman reinvented himself as the AWESOM-O 4000 from Japan. Anyway, I digress. The Honda U3-X pulls technology from ASIMO to create a fully functional “universal unicycle” that may be what our future has in store for us.  

Honda U3-X

The figure 8 shaped U3-X device features pull-out seating wings that are located at the crest while the large wheel at the button houses a series of smaller wheels that have fully independent rotation. This means that the operator can go forward, backward, side-to-side or diagonally. We all know that being asked to ride a unicycle is an effort in futility, but the U3-X requires only that a person leans in the direction they wish to proceed.

Honda U3-X

Unlike the Segway this device is omnidirectional. And, the U3-X is much more petite at 22 pounds, while the lightest P-Series HT from Segway tips the scales at 75 pounds. The Honda U3-X works off of a single, lithium-ion battery that can keep it humming along for up to 1 hour moving at just under 4 MPH. We would like to see this personal mobility device at least be able to hit 8 mph which would double the speed of a brisk walk. Even the cheapest Segway gets 10 mph.


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:

Length×Width×Height(mm) :315×160×650

Weight: less than 10kg

Battery Type: Lithium ion battery

Operation time (with fully charged battery): 1 hour

Source: Honda