Honda, best known for its small, fuel-efficient cars and its motorcycles, has spent more than a decade refining a humanoid robot it calls Asimo. Although it seems there’s still a long way to go before the average household will have a mechanized companion to fetch things and handle chores, some of the technologies that allow the automaton to walk, climb stairs, and carry things without falling over are making their way into other Honda products.
Take the U3-X, a personal mobility device that looks like a unicycle. It’s being compared to the Segway Personal Transporter because it takes direction and speed cues from the way the rider leans. The vehicle is supposed to move in any direction at up to 5.6 km per hour and has enough smarts to make the adjustments necessary to stay upright. But on city streets, where cracks in the pavement are more the rule than the exception, will this thing respond quickly enough to a bump that could send a forward-leaning rider hurtling headfirst toward the ground?
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