There’s something inherently exciting about the idea of having some little vehicle you can carry almost anywhere and just deploy as needed. Boom: You’re riding something, instead of walking like a filthy animal.
I suppose a skateboard is the closest thing to a device that actually can do this, and folding bicycles have been trying for decades, but I’m not sure I’ve seen anything that solves the problem as effectively. This little inflatable scooter is from the research organization Mercari R4D and students at the University of Tokyo.
Now, before I go on, I do absolutely realize that this video came out in May and plenty of places already featured it, including our own Gizmodo. I also realize that I don’t care, I want to talk about it anyway, and if our Gizmodo siblings have a problem with that, well, then they can just meet me in the break room and we’ll let our fists do the talking. Because that’s how shit gets settled in the brutal world of professional bloggery.
Back to this really clever little machine, which is called the Poimo, for Portable and Inflatable Mobility. I somehow missed out on it months ago, so if you did as well, here’s the video that explains everything:
There’s so much I’m impressed about the design of this thing, the most impressive part I think being this:
It’s actually quite small when deflated, and they say it weighs only 12 pounds. Compare that to a folding bike’s bag:
That inflatable scooter could slide into your backpack and you could walk around and have a pretty normal day; that folding bike would make you feel like you’re hauling around a German shepherd carcass with you all day.
Now, I do have some questions about the inflation process; that air pump looks to be plugged into a wall, which may not always be possible, and a battery for that would increase the amount of weight you’d have to lug. Would a foot pump be possible or practical, I wonder?
The simplicity of the design is especially appealing: a two-chamber inflatable body, a little rigid chassis with the wheels, steering joint, battery pack, an in-wheel motor and some little handlebars. And that’s it! From a manufacturing standpoint, this is orders of magnitude simpler than a folding bike design.
For a production version, you’d probably want to add some little LED lights front and rear (pretty light, cheap and trivial, really), maybe a battery-level indicator. And you need to make sure a means to recharge the battery pack was light and easy as well — perhaps that could be integrated into the same unit as the air pump?
This reminds me a bit of that amazing Mazda suitcase car some Mazda engineers built in 1991. That suitcase car is, of course, the coolest of all of these sorts of things, but this inflatable concept is vastly better.
I haven’t seen anything to show there’s been more development yet, but this seems like a promising start. Besides, it’ll be fun to go places with a vehicle whose wheels are impervious to punctures but its body isn’t.