Honda reckons its Segway-like wheelchair can deliver ‘the peaceful feeling of floating in the sky’ when paired with VR and isn’t just for people with mobility issues

Creating technology for the purpose of helping people with disabilities is a noble goal and one where strides seem to be being made to make the world a more accessible place for all. However, Honda reckons its UNI-ONE Segway-like device isn’t just for people with mobility issues, as the company has released a video showing someone having a whale of a time in one equipped with a VR headset.

In an interesting example of repurposing functional technology for entertainment purposes, the UNI-ONE, Honda’s self-balancing mobility solution first demonstrated in 2023, has been pitched as a “brand new multimodal experience that takes extended reality technologies to the next level” with the addition of VR (via Gizmodo). The company will be showing off the device at SXSW, inviting attendees to ride the UNI-ONE while wearing a VR headset and shifting their body weight to steer.

According to the press release, experiences will include “the peaceful feeling of floating in the sky” or “the exhilarating feeling of gliding along a half-pipe path”. 

The company envisions people enjoying the experience in indoor and outdoor “obstacle-free spaces”—which strikes as a necessity rather than an option—including theme parks, entertainment facilities, and shopping malls.

Honda also wants to collaborate with AR and VR developers to create VR experiences that make use of UNI-ONE’s free-flowing movement, and in the accompanying video, our intrepid test-ee certainly seems to be having a good time using a headset with the device, stretching out their arms and grinning. 

You can almost hear the “wheeeee” as they glide around the (noticeably obstacle-free and spacious) test room.

Well, who’s to deny that it does look fun? However, the UNI-ONE does have a serious intended purpose beyond its entertainment possibilities and makes use of some impressive technology to achieve it. 

Once a user has strapped themselves into the seat, the device lifts itself off of the ground onto two self-balancing motorised wheels that Honda calls its “Honda Omni Traction Drive System”, which then allows smooth and multi-directional movement.

Virtual reality

(Image credit: Valve)

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The device also features an adjustable motorised seat that can be raised to a higher position to allow users to be closer to the eye level of someone standing and can be turned with the shifting of body weight. A joystick is also provided for additional movement control, and it can achieve a maximum speed of 3.7 miles per hour.

While its functional usage as a mobility device is still the primary goal, pivoting it around to an entertainment device is certainly an interesting if perhaps impractical use-case for the tech, although judging by the grinning reaction of our test subject it does seem like it could also provide a novel entertainment experience at the very least. Let’s just hope the booth attendants at SXSW are on the lookout for passing pedestrians, I suppose, or those pesky obstacles.

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