First of all, I’m all for getting rid of legs. They’re way too convenient. As movies like Return to Oz will forever attest (cue creepy video clip), wheels are much more efficient. Self-balancing wheels… even more so.
Product development company Inventist is bringing on the self-balancing, single wheel revolución. They’re doing it all with a wee wheel you stick up under your meat kickers. The Solowheel. Let’s have a look.
The mechanical details were done with Autodesk Inventor. Like that other stylish vehicle that moves as you lean to and fro, this compact contraption uses special gyroscopic sensors to propel you along your way in an upright position, albeit in a much more compact, less awkward fashion. Put it this way, if you wrapped a sheet around your lower portions, no one will know how you are floating down the walkway until you fall. The special sensor, circuit and software were all designed to compensate for balance while you move along.
Inventist provided a little more info on what makes the Solowheel so unique.
The Solowheel is the simplest, greenest, smallest, most convenient ‘People Mover’ ever invented. Gyro-sensor technology is behind this new auto-balancing unicycle. People have tried to make electric auto-balancing unicycles, but they all share one common problem: It’s hard to balance left and right because you can’t steer an electric unicycle like you steer a bicycle. The Solowheel solves this problem by employing the same concept of balance and steering as when you are wearing ice skates. Think about gliding on one foot… You can easily steer and maneuver your body left and right. The Solowheel offers the same ability to stabilize yourself.
The breakthrough is in the design. Your feet are set very low to the ground and close to the wheel, with leg pads for your lower legs to rest against. This way, the lower part of your body is ‘fused’ to the wheel as if you were skating on one foot. The human foot has a small mass so it is easier to rotate and manipulate independently of the body than the larger mass of the hip. Using your feet to steer and balance is much easier than using the hip which all other auto-balancing unicycle’s draw on.
One-hundred percent battery operated
Lithium ion battery recaptures energy when going downhill or slowing down
Two hour battery life and can be fully recharged in 45 minutes
Leaning controls your speed (Lean forward goes forward, backwards slows down)
More portable and compact than any unicycle or folding electric bike
Top-handle to carry onto public transportation, into store or office building
Size: 17 x 19 x 5-inch (43 x 48 x 13 cm)
Weight: 24 lbs (11 kilos )
Speed: 12 mph at 1000 Watts
Three gyro sensors monitor the pitch, roll and yaw
Regenerative braking recaptures energy.
Wheel, motor and battery contained in a single enclosure
Now that, is an expensive unicycle, but if you look at something comparable, like the Yikebike (developed in SolidWorks by YikeBike Limited) at US$3,995, it’s a bit more reasonable, particularly if you put it up against the cost of driving a 1982 Chevy Suburban at top speed for 5 minutes (mean, mean, Earth (and deer) killers.) Of course, it’s more likely you would compare it against the cost of riding a bicycle… a very nice bicycle, with handlebars.