Come one, come all, to the carnival of oddities that is Honda’s R&D division. Witness Asimo: the humanoid robot, and the tragedies tragedies that sometimes befall him. Shield your children from the assisted walking system that looks straight from the pages of science fiction. Gawk at the motorcycle with an airbag. And recoil in terror at the UX-3, a unicycle that balances itself.
Taking a cue from the Segway, Honda’s crack team of Japanese engineers have cooked up their own version of personalized transport. And instead of two wheels, it uses just one.
From the side, the UX-3 looks a bit like a cell splitting in two: two circles with a swoopy midsection connecting them. It’s quite simple: the top is a seat and the bottom is a wheel. But not just any wheel.
The UX-3 employs Honda’s omni-directional driving wheel system, also known as HOT. Besides rolling back and forth, it will strafe left and right, using the same upper body leans that control a Segway. So rather than rolling it down a hallway, stopping to turn 90 degrees to the right and entering a doorway, a user could merely roll down the hall and lean right to duck in the doorway. Honda’s demonstration video explains the concept even better.
At the moment, the device remains a prototype, but Honda may someday attempt to bring the concept to market as an assisted mobility device for the elderly. The company will publicly show off the UX-3 later in October at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show.