Robot roller skates less bulky than Segway

Researchers at Japan's state-backed AIST lab are developing prototype robotic roller skates that automatically respond to user movements.

Researchers in Japan are developing robotic roller skates as a new form of personal mobility.

Tim Hornyak

Toshinobu Takei of Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) demonstrated his "Unit-type Micro-Mobility" device at the 2009 International Robot Exhibition (iRex) in Tokyo this week.

We haven't seen too many gadgets like these, but what with the plethora of prototype personal vehicles like Honda's U3-X unicycle in Japan lately, they aren't surprising.

The prototype skates are actually mechatronic versions of "takeuma," which are old-school bamboo stilts that kids used to play with in Japan before their lives were consumed by cell phones and video games.

The aluminum skates move automatically when the user leans forward, but the attached poles must also be grasped. Users can roll or step forward with them.

Each skate contains a wheel, three accelerometers, and gyroscopes, and weighs about 11 pounds, according to Takei, part of AIST's Field Robotics Research Group.

Top speed is about 2.5 mph.

Takei said the skates are still in development, but added they are less bulky than a Segway.

Could they spark a new roller disco boom? Everyone would dance The Robot, of course.

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