Wednesday 30th January 2002
TOYOTA IDEA OLYMPICS
Hampster powered cars?!
Toyota are encouraging some wild thinking in Japan with the annual Toyota
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.
|"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.
|"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.
|"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.
|"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.
|"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.
Some interesting ideas here which could end up in Toyotas of the future.
Perhaps not the hampsters though...