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This inflatable e-bike is easily the most ridiculous product of 2020

You’re probably familiar with the concept of a folding bike, which can be used by commuters as a mode of transport when required but can just as easily fold up and be carried under one arm or stowed under a seat when it’s not. The creators of a project called Poimo (POrtable and Inflatable MObility), developed at Japan’s Tokyo University, have come up with a somewhat wackier version of this — and it involves an inflatable scooter.

The scooter itself is created from durable drop stitch fabric, with seven inflatable sections, including the wheels. The idea is that the user simply blows up Poimo, adds the rigid components like brushless motor, and they’re ready to zip down the streets of Tokyo on their inflated hog as if they’re starring in a balloon animal version of Akira.

Digital Trends covered the project for the first time earlier this year. However, since then the folks behind it have continued to develop their prototype. In one of their recent updates, they’ve come up with a way to customize each vehicle by allowing would-be owners to submit images of themselves in their ideal seating position. The team then builds a 3D computer model of the scooter that fits the specifications of the rider (such as their speed requirements, balance preferences, and more), and their desired riding pose. They would then be able to have it manufactured according to their unique spec — or, at least, they will if it advances to commercialization.

“The biggest advantage of inflatable mobility is that it can be small when you’re not using it and large when you are,” Hiroki Sato, director of the inflatable mobility project, told Digital Trends. “As long as you have an inflator, you can get around comfortably on the road [for short journeys], and because the vehicle is made of fabric, it’s easy to create a shape that suits your individual needs. We’re also hoping it will be cheaper to manufacture than metal [vehicles].”

Inflatable wheelchair
The University of Tokyo and Mercari R4D

Sato said that there is currently no specific date when this might be available to purchase. However, the team is working with partners on demo experiments and productization. It seems that the team’s ambitions go beyond inflated bikes, too.

“Our target is not only bike users,” Sato said. “For example, for wheelchair users, it’s important that the wheelchair fits their body … We believe that being able to make [or] choose mobility that fits the user’s individual circumstances or preferences is important for an inclusive society.”

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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