So, Segway's selling some new robot platform, which I'm sure will get press far beyond its merit, but who cares about that. The interesting part is the crazy wheels it uses: I hadn't heard of Mecanum wheels before, but they are nifty. This video of an electric wheelchair shows how it works pretty clearly: if all four wheels are turning in the same direction, it does the obvious thing. But if the wheels on one side are turning toward each other, and the wheels on the other side are turning away from each other, it moves sideways! The controller is neat, too: it looks to be a joystick that rotates.
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18 Responses:

  1. nightrider says:

    I want those wheels on my car.
    No... wait, screw that, I want them on my motorcycle!

    • psymbiotic says:

      No... wait, screw that, I want them on my motorcycle!

      The image of that reminds me of the motorcycle Hiro Protagonist uses in Snowcrash.


      • pozorvlak says:

        You took that long to get the image of Hiro's motorbike? That was the first thing I thought of...

        • jwz says:

          OH MY GOD WHO CARES!

          Don't you people have any idea how boring the "hey! there was something like this in an absurdly popular novel and/or blockbuster anime!" response is?

      • skreidle says:

        Nah. His wheels could account for dips and bumps and debris, but couldn't go sideways--which is good, because motorcycle mechanics pretty much depend on Wheels Rolling Forward And Not Sideways. :)

    • bdu says:

      It might be difficult to counterbalance a sudden sideways motion on a motorcycle, yes?

  2. dmlaenker says:

    Segway: making medical supplies look cool since pretty much never.

  3. fanf says:

    The Airtrax fork-lift has Mecanum wheels too.

    More about omnidirectional wheels:

  4. amarshwren says:

    Pretty sure Masamune Shirow was drawing these on some of his mecha in GiTS or Dominion... but that's easy for him since he lives in one of our dystopic futures.

  5. benediktus says:

    nifty indeed. saw them on a robot-wheel-chair-prototype at my old university last year.
    but when it comes to dog poo infested streets, not a very practical design, i suppose.
    also the rolls seem to me to seize up pretty quick when there's dirt and gravel etc. around,
    don't you think?

  6. merovingian says:

    Okay, so I'm guessing that this isn't durable and light enough for a car, but maybe have retractable onces that come down, just for parallel parking?

    Otherwise, I'm going to need to have a major accident and lose my legs, so I can get these implanted instead. I'll wait a few decades on that.

  7. explodingbat says:

    The controller looks similar to the ones 3Dconnexion make; they're useful for CAD, and surprisingly cheap.

  8. hyperscoot says:

    HA! This means in the future, we may have tanks that can circle strafe.

  9. If you swap the front and back wheels on one side, you can push it in circles.