Researchers from the University of Tokyo have been looking at 'soft mobility' solutions to address the well known 'last-kilometre problem' inherent to public transport. A prototype transportation device dubbed the 'Poimo' (POrtable and Inflatable MObility) has been made and tested, with preliminary results provided at the recent ACM CHI conference on Human Factors in Computing. In brief, the Poimo is an inflatable eBike that can fit in a moderately sized backpack.
Soft Mobility has a particular appeal in crowded cities where the soft, lightweight, and inflatable vehicles enable safer interactions with other road users, particularly pedestrians. If it gains market traction, vehicles like the Poimo could reduce sidewalk clutter too.
You can see the Poimo in action in the video embedded above. The ideal use case is as follows. A person has left the train or bus station, but there is no means of transport to their final destination other than by foot. So, they take out the Poimo and inflate it before zooming off to comfortably complete their journey. The Poimo is designed to be easily deflated and packed away again once you get where you were going.
Some product and technical details of the Poimo have been shared:
- Made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
- Optimal operating pressure (both stable and comfortable to sit on) to 40 or 50kPa (6 or 7psi) - about half the pressure a football is usually inflated to.
- Inflated structure is 2.3kg.
- Total weight including wheels, brushless motor, battery, and a wireless controller is 5.5kg.
There are plenty of opportunities to optimise the prototype and while it is already claimed to be functional and fun to ride, it is aimed to increase portability (make it lighter for example), as well as refine comfort and safety. Nothing has been said about the range of the Poimo, however. Further attention will be paid to social feasibility and pricing concerns. Eventually vehicles like Poimo should be more cost effective than existing alternatives.