Taking Honda's Uni-cub for a ride: Is it more than just a bar stool with wheels?
It's a bar stool with wheels. That's the first thing that came into our heads when we saw the Honda Uni-cub, the future of mobility according to Honda; well certainly around museums, offices, or shopping centres.
Of course it is much more than that, as we found out ourselves when we got to try the moving seat on its first visit out of Japan.
Following in the footsteps of mobility vehicles like the Segway and countless other non-traditional methods of moving from A to B, the idea of the uni-cub is to enable people to move around inside while sitting comfortably.
Riders, if you can call them that, need only to shift their body weight to move forwards or strafe left or right at a comfortable rather than hair raising speed (it has a maximum speed of just 6kph.
The seat itself is well padded while the uni-cub automatically balances itself meaning at no point do you feel like you are going to topple over.
There are two pedals for your feet, a small trailing wheel, but no handle bars, and nothing to hold on to.
That doesn't really matter explained Shinichiro Kobashi, the chief engineer behind the project at Honda. In an interview at the company's ASIMO studio in Brussels he told us that it means you have your hands free to read, carry, or simply point at things on your journey. You don't even need to place both feet on the pedal. And no, there is no accelerator or brake.
Once you're sat on the device, you have to be under 100Kg, with your back straight and posture in such a way if feels like you are at your parents dinner table for an important meal, you simply have to lean in the direction you want to travel.
It takes us a minute to two to get the hang of things, and we quickly find that the more upright we sit the easier it becomes. Kobashi-San says it quickly becomes easier over time and he is right, by the end of our 15 minute interview, held while on the uni-cub we feel a lot more confident.
Behind the sniggers, fun, and frivolity, is serious tech, and it is the uni-cub's wheel that we are most impressed with.
The single wheel at the back, called an Omni Traction Drive System and is mostly hidden out of sight, is made up of a series of disks allowing the wheel to travel in any direction it wants to; forwards, backwards, or left and right, or spin 360 degrees without the need to turn in a circle to do so.
This tech, which Honda says has already benefited its motorbike races teams and whole bike division, allows for the huge amounts of mobility afforded to the device without it having to worry about balancing itself and you as you would normally expect from a uni-cycle.
If you wondering how you can have a go yourself, or when it will be coming to a museum near you, don't hold your breath too long.
Honda says that it is about to start public testing in Japan shortly, but that a UK or European beta programme isn't currently on the cards.
As for whether the company will be releasing one with a more armchair like design? That is very possible confirmed Kobashi-San.