Honda Motor Co., the savvy Japanese manufacturer of cars, motorcycles, jet planes and so much more may have another huge hit on its hands - the U3-X "personal mobility" device. Word to Honda's execs: re-jig the production lines pronto before the masses beat down the doors looking for an electric unicycle of their very own.
Availability may be the only downside of the U3-X, introduced and demonstrated as a one-off prototype in Tokyo on September 24th.
In every other respect it excels; even including the elusive aura of coolness so opposite to that of the geeky Segway with which it shares some basic attributes. To paraphrase the late Marty Feldman's "Igor" character from Young Frankenstein, "It's going to be very popular."
Lest I get too far ahead of myself, the U3-X is Honda's answer to the urban mobility needs of an aging population. Weighing just 10kg (22 lbs), the U3-X packs a lot into a small package though being a unicycle undoubtedly helps. Yes, a unicycle... on steroids.
Drawing from the balancing technology used in its line of Asimo robots, the U3-X is solidly steady enough to support brittle oldsters who recoil from standard bicycles. The single wheel is made up of dozens of smaller, motorized wheels mounted perpendicular to and in the circumference of the main large wheel - heck, just watch the video already:
Now tell me, how cool is this? Part seniors' scooter, part Lean Machine and with a dash of air-scooter from Return of the Jedi thrown in, the Honda U3-X is so far ahead of its time one suspects Honda must have invented a time machine just to get one - guess they're saving that bombshell for some other news conference.
As for the U3-X, once deliveries begin to their aged owners I recommend they hide the keys where the kids (and grand-kids) can't find 'em. (via Mainichi Daily News and NPR)