Hands-free personal mobility: UNI-ONE

再生 再生

Research and development of UNI-ONE, a hands-free seated personal mobility device with an eye level close to that of standing people

Development story

A mobility device the user can steer simply by shifting body weight while sitting and keeping both hands free to move naturally in all directions as if they were walking, can broaden the potential of mobility beyond walking and use of a conventional wheelchair.

The goal of Honda Robotics is to help people in their daily lives, and one of the key concepts of Honda Robotics is the “expansion of the physical functions for people.” Based on this concept, we are developing the UNI-ONE, a hands-free personal mobility device that offers new value to our customers by enabling them to enjoy mobility without being constrained by their physical capabilities and/or skills.

What is UNI-ONE?

A hands-free personal mobility device that expands the potential and joy of various people

There are two key features of UNI-ONE.
First, is that UNI-ONE changes its height.
UNI-ONE takes the “low position” for more stability while the user is getting on, and shifts to the “high position” once moving, so that the user will have an eye level close to that of people who are standing. The other key feature is that a UNI-ONE user can move in all directions just by shifting their body weight, thus using both hands freely.

Having an eye level close to that of standing people enables natural communications while moving. Being able to use of both hands makes it possible to perform certain tasks while moving, beyond operating the device. These key features of UNI-ONE expand the potential of various people.

■ Key features of UNI-ONE

Technologies that made UNI-ONE possible:

Human-machine cooperative balance control technology and the original wheel mechanism

Honda introduced the UNI-CUB in 2012 and the UNI-CUB β in 2013 as a personal mobility device people can use in their everyday lives.
The UNI-ONE features "human-machine cooperative balance control technology" and the original wheel mechanism (drive system), which were inherited from the UNI-CUB β and further advanced.

■ Enabling the user to move with natural posture as if they were walking

Human-machine cooperative balance control technologyThe system uses posture sensors to detect the user’s natural postural movements, just like what happens when a person walks. By using data such as inclination angle and angular velocity, the intension estimation controller performs calculations to estimate the user’s intentions, such as whether the user wants to stay in place, or to move toward which direction and at what speed. Based on the results of the estimate, the stabilization controller performs calculations to control the wheels so that the UNI-ONE does not lean too far and applies feedback control to achieve natural behavior that is neither too fast nor too slow.

Furthermore, by applying feedback control at a calculation speed more than twice as fast as that of the UNI-CUB β developed in 2013, the UNI-ONE enables the user to move as intended by making slight changes in their posture. As a result, UNI-ONE became a mobility device which can move around easily while achieving a high degree of operational stability, which makes it easy to ride for all kinds of people including elderly and children. Development is also underway to accommodate people with a disability in the lower limbs who have ability to maintain their balance while sitting*.

■ HOT Drive System

“Honda Omni Traction Drive System,” Honda’s original wheel mechanismHonda Omni Traction Drive System (HOT Drive System), Honda's original wheel mechanism that enables highly responsive movement in all directions, has been further advanced as a mobility mechanism that realizes the sensation of human walking. The UNI-ONE is equipped with 2 units of the HOT Drive System, one on each side, enabling the user to make smooth movement in any direction.

This software and hardware (human-machine cooperative balance control technology and HOT Drive System) makes it easy for the UNI-ONE user to change directions by pushing off a wall or desk with their hand, which is difficult to do for the users of a conventional type of seated mobility device, such as wheelchairs. In addition, they also enable good line tracing when moving at medium to high speeds.

*Research and development under the supervision of Yokohama City General Rehabilitation Center.

■ Enabling the user to move with natural posture as if they were walking

■ HOT Drive System

Mechatronics technology behind the smooth transitions between high and low positions when changing modes and best possible anti-tipping measures

UNI-ONE will be in “Low Position Mode” while the user is getting on, and in “High Position Mode” while the user is moving around with the balance control. When switching between these two modes, the UNI-ONE initially faced some issues such as making unexpectedly large movements caused by an uneven ground surface and/or a slight deviation of the user’s posture and the user felt the impact of the landing (when the UNI-ONE takes the low position) which was transmitted through the seat.

To address these issues, a soft rubber bushing was embedded between the parts that go up and down when switching modes (the seat and the landing leg) and the wheel mechanism unit. Then the stabilization controller applied optimal balance control while taking into consideration the characteristics of the rubber bushing, realizing smooth mode changes.

Moreover, the mode change is normally done electrically by pressing the up/down button, but in the event of an error, the system promptly and mechanically puts the UNI-ONE in the low position as soon as the error is detected, thereby preventing the tipping over of the UNI-ONE as much as possible.

■ Elevating/lowering function of UNI-ONE

■ Function of each mode and how to change modes

■ Introduction of three engineers behind the development of UNI-ONE

Use cases of UNI-ONE:

Expanding the joy of people by offering new mobility options in various situations

For example, when a three-generation family visits a theme park, UNI-ONE may reduce the burden on elderly family members who are not confident in walking for a long period of time, enabling them to have a great time while joining the rest of the family throughout the day. For people with an impaired lower limb, riding UNI-ONE will make it easier for them to do their work or perform tasks using both hands freely while moving. For people who need a wheelchair for mobility, UNI-ONE will enable them to move around as if they are walking and talking to people around them, rather than having a caregiver push them in a wheelchair. Furthermore, UNI-ONE can reduce the burden of people who have to walk around in a large area for their work.

We want to add new mobility options for people in various situations. In doing so, we want to enable people to have more fun and joy in their daily lives. That is the grand concept of our UNI-ONE.

■ Examples of the use envisioned for UNI-ONE

To assist people who are not confident in walking for long periods of time in various facilities, and to reduce the physical burden on staff members.
To enjoy a walk while having an eye level close to that of people walking alongside, and to expand the range of work/activities for people with lower limb impairments.

Envisioning new entertainment applications

Taking advantage of one of the key features of UNI-ONE, which enables users to freely use both hands and extend their physical functions, we envision UNI-ONE being used in XR games*, providing new value by integrating the digital features into the real-world experience.

* XR stands for “extended reality,” a generic term for technologies such as VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality) that fuse the real world with the virtual world to enable the perception of things that do not exist in reality.

■ Examples of envisioned XR gaming scenes

UNI-ONE can be used as a mobility device in games in which players follow certain routes. When a player hits an obstacle, the UNI-ONE vibrates. Such fun effects can be added. We also envision a “racing game” where players use their hands while moving freely.

■ The world expanded by UNI-ONE

The passion of the development team:

Developing UNI-ONE while thinking of the smile on the faces of people using it. Our goal is to enable people to have more fun and enjoy their lives.

To reduce the risk of tipping over and ensure that everyone can ride UNI-ONE with peace of mind, including the elderly and people with lower limb impairments who lack confidence walking for long periods of time, we pursued research on how to prevent tipping over in various situations, including outdoor use. We determined seat heights and other specifications after talking to actual wheelchair users and caregivers and through repeated testing and verifications. As for styling, we pursued a design which fulfills two conflicting challenges – compact size and high stability – for a mobility device which will be used in a space where co-existing with people will be required. Together with engineering design, we boiled down and finalized the current styling featuring human-friendly and contoured designs.

We believe that the attractive features of the UNI-ONE are not only its versatility for various use applications but also the ability to enable users to move around in a very relaxed manner, as if they are walking.

In order to have more people experience the UNI-ONE in person, we have been conducting demonstration testing at Suzuka Circuit Park since October 2022. We will accumulate valuable data and know-how while enabling a variety of people to enjoy riding it. We also exchange opinions and conduct hearings at Japan Sun Industries’ support facility for people with disabilities in Oita Prefecture, and at Honda Taiyo, where people with disabilities play an active role, to provide feedback for the development of the UNI-ONE.

We will continue to take on challenges to realize our desire to bring more smiles to the faces of many people, regardless of disability or age.

UNI-ONE booth at Suzuka Circuit Park, one of the UNI-ONE demonstration testing sites, where visitors can experience riding UNI-ONE.

Honda UNI-ONE development team:

(Left to right)

Masaki GotoUNI-ONE, Electric equipment
Innovative Research Excellence - Frontier Robotics
Honda R&D Co., Ltd.
Daisuke NoharaUNI-ONE, Vehicle body
Innovative Research Excellence - Frontier Robotics
Honda R&D Co., Ltd.
Marika MochizukiUNI-ONE design, Solution Design Studio,
Innovation Design Office, Design Center,
Honda R&D Co., Ltd.