April 14, 2024

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Honda's “extended reality” is a combination of virtual reality and robotic wheelchairs

Honda's “extended reality” is a combination of virtual reality and robotic wheelchairs

Honda has announced a new “extended reality” experience that combines virtual reality with personal mobility devices like the automaker's Uni-One self-balancing wheelchair. Honda said it will showcase its technology at SXSW in Austin, Texas, next month.

The goal is to “elevate” the VR experience, which is largely static and confined to a single space, by integrating it with Honda's Segway-like Uni-One mobility device that responds to the user's movements. In this way, Honda can simulate racing through immersive alien landscapes. The device is hands-free, giving users the freedom to use their upper bodies to enhance the VR experience.

The Uni-One can be raised to a “high position” seat height of 27.6 inches, where the user is close to eye level with standing individuals. While sitting, they can move forward, backward, diagonally or sideways just by tilting their body in the direction they want to go and shifting their weight. In “low” mode, the user is more at the level of seated people or small children and can move in any direction by steering with the joystick.

Just to be clear: This experience is intended for entertainment and not necessarily for people with disabilities or mobility challenges. In its statement, Honda did not mention people with disabilities.

Honda says extended reality (XR) technology could be ideal for malls, parks or other indoor or outdoor entertainment facilities – as long as it has a large, unobstructed space.

The Uni-One, which will debut at SXSW this year, is based on Honda's Uni-Cub, which was first introduced in 2012. The unicycle-like vehicle is designed to be telescoping, while being long enough To allow people to stay at eye level with standing comrades.

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In comparison, the Uni-One weighs 154 pounds and can travel at a top speed of 3.7 mph. The chair's replaceable lithium-ion battery can have a range of up to five miles when traveling at speeds of up to 2.5 mph. It has a maximum weight of 242 lbs.

Whether there will ever be anything as special as the Honda XR experience is anyone's guess. Shopping malls certainly have their fair share of low-quality VR kiosks, but the vast majority of them are fixed or require the user to sit in a confined space. Honda is asking them to be open to creating an indoor rink of sorts to allow their Uni-One chairs freedom of control.

Will it turn into a low-speed demolition derby, where a group of goggle-wearing racers crash into each other at 2 mph? Or it would be more like One ready player The situation, where everyone gets their own personal grinders? Either way, the future looks pretty ridiculous.