Toyota Reveals Trio Of "Winglet" Personal Transport Assistance Robots

Toyota announced today a trio of new "Toyota Partner Robots" designed as a new method of personal transport assistance (Click here to see a gallery of the three). They're each called the "Winglet" and the smallest of the three consists of a body a little bigger than an 8 1/2" x 11" piece of paper that houses an electric motor, two wheels and internal sensors that constantly monitor the user's position and make adjustments in power to ensure stability. Meanwhile, a unique parallel link mechanism allows the rider to go forward, backward and turn simply by shifting body weight. Sound familiar to you? It should.

The trio are designed to "contribute to society by helping people enjoy a safe and fully mobile life." Basically, it's designed to help people like the elderly and morbidly obese by expanding the user's range of mobility in a Segway-like manner. The "L", "M" and "S", each having different handling features that allow consumers to select a model appropriate to their needs—from "practical" to "hands-free sporty."

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Jalopnik Snap Judgment: We've seen this before, except last time it was called the Segway. And we all know how we think about that. But, Toyota loves the people-transporting toys like the i-real personal mobility device we saw at the Tokyo Motor Show last year. Will people buy them? In Japan, perhaps.

Full press release below.

Toyota Develops Personal Transport Assistance Robot 'Winglet' Tokyo — TOYOTA MOTOR CORPORATION (TMC) announced today development of the "Winglet", a personal transport assistance robot ridden in a standing position. The Winglet—still being refined—is one of TMC's people-assisting Toyota Partner Robots. Designed to contribute to society by helping people enjoy a safe and fully mobile life, the Winglet is a compact next-generation everyday transport tool that offers advanced ease of use and expands the user's range of mobility. The Winglet consists of a body (with a projected area the size of an A3 sheet of paper) that houses an electric motor, two wheels and internal sensors that constantly monitor the user's position and make adjustments in power to ensure stability. Meanwhile, a unique parallel link mechanism allows the rider to go forward, backward and turn simply by shifting body weight, making the vehicle safe and useful even in tight spaces or crowded environments. TMC has created three models, the "L", "M" and "S", each having different handling features that allow consumers to select a model appropriate to their needs—from "practical" to "hands-free sporty". TMC plans various technical and consumer trials to gain feedback during the Winglet's lead-up to practical use. Practical tests of its utility as a mobility tool are planned to begin in Autumn 2008 at Central Japan International Airport (Centrair) near Nagoya, and Laguna Gamagori, a seaside marine resort complex in Aichi Prefecture. Testing of its usefulness in crowded and other conditions, and how non-users react to the device, is to be carried out in 2009 at the Tressa Yokohama shopping complex in Yokohama City. TMC is pursuing sustainability in research and development, manufacturing and social contribution as part of its concept to realize "sustainability in three areas" and to help contribute to the health and comfort of future society. Toyota Partner Robot development is being carried out with this in mind and applies TMC's approach to monozukuri ("making things"), which includes its mobility, production and other technologies. In a related development, TMC unveiled the "MOBIRO" mobility robot, designed for use in a sitting position, in 2007. TMC aims to realize the practical use of Toyota Partner Robots in the early 2010s by furthering its robotic development and strengthening collaboration between industry, government and academia.

DISCUSSION

An open letter:

Dear Japan,

In light of the new Toyota concept product the Winglet, I must offer the surrender of the American people. In witnessing our expanding girths and increasing lassitude, you have altered your industry to accomodate same. Your cars are larger, softer to support our squashy bottoms, and more powerful to drag our prodigous weight to our important but globally irrelevant meetings more quickly, so we do not have to wear out our increasingly overloaded feet. Said vehicles abound with every form of entertainment that can be packaged into a car, the better to distract us from our dissolution, the better to distract us from traffic and perhaps kill each other off in a fiery but airbagged crash.

Now, with the advent of the Toyota concepts iGo and Winglet, and the Honda robot Asimo, we Americans scarcely need get out of our chairs. The chairs themselves are freeway capable; convenient rolling platforms that whisk us quietly and quickly from one pointless task to another can be had to suit any floppy body type, and our mechanical valet can do the little nuisance jobs like retrieve items dropped on the floor, or reach all the way 'round to wipe our dirty bottoms.

We were once a vibrant, vigorous nation, Japan. We conquered even the Land of the Rising Sun to maintain peace. We know that was a bitter pill. And in retaliation, you have assaulted us so gently, so lovingly, with the convenience and luxury goods that have brought us to this, an absolute halt, utter inertia. We surrender, Japan. We give. Uncle.

You're killing us.