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Wednesday 30th January 2002


TOYOTA IDEA OLYMPICS

Hampster powered cars?!

Toyota are encouraging some wild thinking in Japan with the annual Toyota Idea Olympics.

Winners this year included a car that looks like a ladybird that is powered by hamsters and a wheelchair that can go up and down stairs. Other winners at the 26th Annual Toyota Idea Olympics held in Toyota City, Japan included a giant football with satellite navigation and an egg-shaped, people carrying robot that finds its own way home.

Every year, Toyota holds this special competition to promote technological achievements in a fun atmosphere. Although the entries include many bizarre ideas, there is some great innovation to be found amongst them.

For the first time, alongside the Toyota and related company participants, entries also included the general public. The initiatives for the Idea Olympics 2001 focused on "quantum leaps into the 21st century" and youngsters from all over Japan had a chance to enter.

"Hamster Car" – Winner of Dream Car Contest for School and University Students

Designed to look like a ladybird, this car has windows where a ladybird has spots. More unique is the source of power as the motor is driven by amplifying the electric power generated by hamsters running.

Click to enlarge...
"Anywhere Wheelchair" – Excellence Award, proving that wacky ideas can have a very serious benefit, this electric wheelchair can go anywhere, even up and down stairs. It's inexpensive too because it's made of off-the-shelf parts that are available almost anywhere. Click to enlarge...
"Geneo-Ball" – Chairman's Award. It's shaped like a ball, and operation is easy – all you do is tell it where to go. But it's actually a sophisticated futuristic vehicle, equipped with a gyro-sensor, GPS antenna, and image-processing capabilities. Click to enlarge...
"Function Egg" – Excellence Award. It looks like an ordinary egg-shaped robot pet, but it's highly functional. When you call it, the front part of the egg opens up to transform itself into a vehicle with a low centre of gravity. Because of its small turning radius, it is freely manoeuvrable. Moreover, after it delivers you to your destination, it can return to its home base all by itself. Click to enlarge...
"Fushigi" (Wonder) Balance Running Car – Bronze Award. The "Fushigi" is a strange-looking vehicle. Controlled by sensors that detect inclination, speed and other conditions, it transforms itself from a four-wheeled vehicle to a four-legged device that can move around freely. Why, isn’t explained. Click to enlarge...
"Surfing Johnny" – Kiichiro Award. No, it's not a beach friendly condom, it's a land based surfboard. It can slant forward and backward and left and right. The operator steers by changing the direction of the wheels through a planetary gear incorporated into the wheel assembly and manipulating a clutch. Click to enlarge...

Some interesting ideas here which could end up in Toyotas of the future. Perhaps not the hampsters though...