Self Balancing Unicycles

Self Balancing Unicycle in action!

Self Balancing Unicycle in action!

(By, Kevin Le)

Some people might have heard of the comic strip “B.C.,” which is about a group of prehistoric cavemen with surprisingly modern attitudes and thoughts.  In one of these strips in particular, one of the cavemen introduces a round, rotating device which can be ridden around — the one and only, wheel.  In the comic, the cavemen were able to ride around on these self-balancing unicycles with ease.  But, does such a wheel exist in the 21st century?  Introducing the Solowheel from Inventist, Inc. The Solowheel merges the simplistic idea thought up by cartoon cavemen with an advanced form of low-energy, zero-emission, and super-portable transportation.  Unlike its sister, the Segway, the Solowheel consists of a single wheel with a small handle on top so that it can be carried around like a briefcase after being “parked.” There are also two footholds on each side which can be folded inwards.  Amazingly, the entire contraption isn’t much larger than a basketball, and only weighs 25 pounds!  So, how did Inventist condense transportation into such a small package?  Let’s take a peek.

The people at Inventist Inc. like to think that they’ve “reinvented the wheel,” but in reality it is just like any other wheel — it’s round, it rotates, and the rotation allows it to move.  What Inventist has changed is the way the wheel used, but not how it works.  The Solowheel has a gyroscope to prevent the user from falling off, and runs on a lithium-ion battery which powers a 1,000-watt electric motor that rotates the wheel around.  It can also recharge itself on the fly simply by utilizing the kinetic energy of gliding and even braking.  So, feel free to race down a hill and screech to a stop, all while saying, “Look, mom!  No hands!”  However, the Solowheel is not a perpetual motion machine which is constantly charging itself — it takes about 45 minutes to recharge the Solowheel on a normal current.  In terms of controls, the Solowheel is incredibly easy to use.  To move forward, lean forward.  To stop, lean backwards.  And to move side-to-side, lean sideways.  However, the Solowheel is not without its limitations.  A fully-charged battery only runs for about an hour before needing to be recharged, and it has a top speed of about 12 mph (19.3 km per hour),  although the Solowheel will probably be upgraded in the future.  So, while the Solowheel is great for short commutes, such as going to the local grocery store, it still has a long way to go before becoming a viable means of transportation.

In the end, the Solowheel is great for short strolls or lazy weekends in the park, but not for intense cross country road trips.  Maybe one day the Solowheel will become as omnipresent as the bicycle, or maybe it will fall into obscurity like many other quirky inventions. Surprisingly, the Solowheel is fairly cheap compared to other modes of transportation.  All in all, the Solowheel is cheap, convenient, portable, and sure to garner a plethora of strange looks from bystanders.  But one bystander, a cartoon caveman, will smile.

 

Posted in How Things Work