Hyundai expands its mobility presence with wearable robots and electric scooter
Hyundai is running full-steam ahead with the "mobility company" strategy at this year's CES, showing various technologies to help people jump from A to B to C and back again. A highlight of that display sure to evoke its share of quizzical looks, Hyundai's battery-powered wearable exoskeletons are designed to improve mobility for everyone from the physically impaired to factory workers. The greater Hyundai exhibit also adds yet another battery-included vehicle to the IONIQ lineup in the form of a folding electric scooter.
We looked in on a more sci-fi, cyborg-like incarnation of Hyundai's mobility exoskeletons last May, but its focus is on sleeker, more humble exoskeletons this time around. The trio on show at CES includes a simpler exoskeleton with the similar workplace assistance objectives as the burlier model from last year. The Hyundai Waist Exoskeleton (H-WEX) supports the hips and upper body during repetitive manual labor or heavy lifting. A built-in algorithm helps ensure user safety, while a Waist Assist function allows the device to flex its joints up to 180 degrees per second, making for smooth operation.
"We have a vision that Hyundai Motor will become more than just a manufacturer of cars and the advances we make in assistive robotic technologies will allow us to offer customers new levels of mobility freedom," says Tae Won Lim, head of the Hyundai Motor Central Advanced Research and Engineering Institute. "In the future, we hope our pioneering exoskeleton devices will enrich the daily lives of users and form the basis for us to provide more mobility platforms for the well-being of our customers."
Beyond workplace safety, Hyundai's exoskeletons also address the mobility needs of those with various levels of physical impairment. The H-MEX (Hyundai Medical Exoskeleton) helps paraplegics regain the ability to walk, sit, stand, turn and negotiate stairs. The suit relies on a wireless clutch, motion control system and removable, rechargeable battery pack to provide assistive movement. It adjusts gait pattern after compounding data like walking pace, length of stride, and torso tilting angle.
The HUMA (Hyundai Universal Medical Assist) exoskeleton is designed for those with limited muscle strength, delivering assistive torque to help in basic movement. The torque adjusts to the level of motion, supporting the wearer through everything from simple walking, to running, to climbing or descending stairs. The HUMA is capable of supporting up to 88 lb (40 kg) of the wearer's weight and reaching unloaded speeds up to 7.5 mph (12 km/h).
Both the H-MEX and HUMA feature harness fixture points at the lower back and knees. Their frames can be adjusted in length to fit different users.
A simpler, everyday mobility solution, the IONIQ Scooter debuts at CES, adding a forward-looking final-mile solution to the IONIQ family of hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric cars first revealed last year. The slick scooter docks in the door of the IONIQ Electric, one of New Atlas' favorite electric vehicles of 2016, where it charges off the car's 28-kWh battery pack. When needed for traveling that last mile or two, the slim scooter pops out, unfolds and creates an electric-powered bridge between the parking space and destination doorway.
Hyundai says that the IONIQ Scooter can be folded and unfolded with one hand. An occupant sensor activates the drive system, and the rider controls speed via a thumb switch and rear-wheel braking pad. A central display provides ride information, and front and rear lights improve visibility during night and low-light rides.
Hyundai doesn't mention any production plans, and we're not sure there's much of a reason to pursue them with the large market of similar folding e-scooters already out there. The design does stand as the latest development of Project IONIQ, which began with last year's introduction of the IONIQ car line and promises to explore more aspects of "freedom in mobility" in the coming years.