Monday, April 20, 2009

i-REAL may be wheelchair of the future

From part of Adam Mills SF Gadgets column in the Examiner:

What if a major corporation that (gasp!) designs and creates automobiles as its major source of business also started to realize that this form of transportation might actually work? Well, they have, and that company is based in Japan.

It is called Toyota.

You may have heard of it.

I want to bring to your attention, Toyota’s new prototype, the i-REAL. First introduced in 2007 at the Tokyo Auto Show and featured on the television program Top Gear, it is understandable that you may have heard something about it already. However, I believe that the i-REAL is a good example of a few different things.

Development of real vehicular alternatives by a major vehicular corporation.

Potential for competition in the personal transportation market which has been lacking since the release of the Segway.

Thirdly, the unthinkable becoming a reality.

The i-REAL is similar in concept to the Segway but that’s where all similarities end. While the Segway employs two wheels, the i-REAL moves on three, two in the front and one in the rear. Instead of moving based on the shifting of the user’s weight, the i-REAL has nifty controls that are located in the arm rests, allowing you the ability to steer it with one hand.

It also has a high speed mode where the user reclines and the wheel base widens so it can reach speeds up to 18 miles per hour with high performance maneuverability. Perimeter monitoring onboard sensors alert you to the presence of any dangers that might be in your way with vibration and an alarm.

Like the Segway, it runs on electricity, so that means, fast travel, with zero emissions.
Lastly, and maybe most important, it will be able to give the disabled more freedom. Obviously, it is going to be much too expensive to replace the average wheelchair, but it is a start.

Of course, the i-REAL will be met with skepticism, uncertainty and maybe even laughter if it indeed makes it past development hell. But it is definitely worth looking into if you value your time, your environment and the world around you.

I’m not saying everyone is going to own one of these. I’ m not saying go out and buy a Segway or a Tesla Roadster. Not everyone is going to be able to fly on an experimental spacecraft into low earth orbit.

What I am saying is be open minded.

I am saying dream.

Because you never know, maybe one day we will all be riding around on something that may have seemed silly at first glance.