U3-X

A revolutionary drive system inspired by the motion of two pencils

"The ultimate achievement would be to create a personal mobility device that works just like walking. As humans, we are capable of moving freely in any direction—forward, backward, side-to-side, or diagonally," remarks Kobashi. "We accomplish this quite effortlessly, but it's a real challenge to make a machine do the same thing."

It would be relatively easy to create a machine that moves forward and back, then changes gears to move side-to-side. However, to accomplish this smoothly and seamlessly without pause, just like a human, presents a far greater challenge.

Despite numerous brainstorming sessions, development was at a standstill. The break-through came at an unexpected moment. It just so happened that all the conference rooms were booked, so Takenaka and Kobashi were discussing development direction in the R&D Center's anechoic room.

"There was a pencil on the table. Takenaka used another pencil he was holding in his hand to roll it back and forth, muttering, 'Maybe we could do something like this,'" recalls Kobashi. "At the time, it didn't go any further than that, but at the same time I remember thinking, 'Hey, maybe we can!'"

If one pencil revolving side-to-side is used to roll another pencil forward and backward, this allows motion forward, backward, and side-to-side, each at 90° angles. Starting with this initial idea, after numerous Y-gaya sessions the project team successfully completed the world's first omni-directional driving wheel system (Honda Omni Traction Drive System), which uses finely controlled motors and drive gears to enable movement in all directions.

Shinichiro Kobashi

Shinichiro Kobashi
Fundamental Technology Research Center
LPL for U3-X development. Originally in charge of motor control technologies for the ASIMO development team, was a key figure in developing the U3-X in just three years.

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