Will This Motorized Unicycle Redefine Transportation? (VIDEO)

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.

Trekking mobility chairs make planet accessible to all

Travelers challenged with mobility issues often had to take a back seat to adventure travelers in the past, viewing dreams-of-a-lifetime from a distance. Now, dedicated companies and organizations are making destinations around the planet accessible to all, even in unlikely places.

Visiting Italy‘s iconic attractions can be a daunting task for the handicapped. Ancient ruins, preserved and protected to maintain their integrity, are far-removed from today’s accessibility laws that bring ramps, assistance and modified facilities. In the past, challenged travelers would most commonly view popular sites such as the Roman Forum, Pompeii and Herculaneum from a distance. Now, a specially designed trekking-wheelchair makes destination immersion possible for many disabled travelers.

“It is our great pleasure to make all of Italy accessible to everyone who would like to visit. This chair is the first of its kind and opens doors to those challenged by walking on our country’s ancient streets,” says Program Director Stefano Sghinolfi of Rome and Italy Tourist Services.

Using a one-of-a-kind chair, every Italian archaeological site can be visited by those with mobility challenges, no matter what the ground surface might be. Using a seat and frame with only one wheel, two arms in the front and back to support the chair when not in motion and allow for movement up or down hills.

The chair is easily rolled and carried by two trained guides and offers 360° degree maneuverability around obstacles such as centuries-old stones or holes and ancient streets or steps.

Another trekking wheelchair is the Black Diamond TrailRider, developed for the British Columbia Mobility Opportunities Society (BCMOS) in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

The single-wheeled TrailRider looks like a cross between a rickshaw and a wheelbarrow and has opened the door to wilderness areas in the United States, Canada and the Himalayas. Two times, this one has made the 19,334-foot ascent of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa.