Watch out, Segway – there’s a new kind of people mover in town, and you don’t even have to stand up to use it. Earlier this week, Honda introduced the UNI-CUB, a self-balancing electric vehicle intended to transport people inside large buildings such as airports, museums and shopping malls. The compact device looks kind of like a futuristic motorized unicycle, except there is an extra wheel on the back for maneuverability. Similar to the Segway, riders simply shift their weight to move backward and forward, side-to-side, or even diagonally. But unlike the Segway, users are free to use their hands and are able to buzz along on the compact device while sitting at eye-level with pedestrians, making the UNI-CUB an unobtrusive addition to foot traffic (besides, of course, all the people who stop to stare).
For travelers, especially those with disabilities, the UNI-CUB has the potential to revolutionize getting from place to place. People who cannot walk long distances are currently limited to using cumbersome scooters – especially when standing upright on a Segway for a long period of time is not an option. Since it’s less bulky, weights only 22 pounds, and can be folded up into a carrying case, the UNI-CUB also might be able to help users get through airport security and board planes with ease.
This is all just speculation, of course. Honda does not yet have a planned release date for the robot unicycle. Besides, we can’t forget that even the Segway never lived up to its hype as a product that would redefine the way we travel. Instead, the machine is most commonly known as a shopping center patrol vehicle. It doesn’t look like we’ll see armies of UNI-CUBs replacing the Segways that are now popular for city tours, either. The transporter is intended for indoor use only and moves at walking speed, about 3.7 miles per hour.
Is the UNI-CUB just another ridiculous people mover, or would you go along for a ride on the sit-down Segway? Personally, I think I’ll hold out for my own hovercraft.