Toyota, like any car company, has a number of prototype and concept vehicles in the works at any given time. In the last few years, they’ve been focused on developing smaller, personal mobility vehicles that are tailored to improving the lives of the elderly or disabled. Most of these vehicles are robotic wheelchairs that balance using the inverted pendulum model, named using Apple’s trendy ”i” prefix, like the i-swing, i-real, and in 2003, developed a prototype that would become the i-foot. The prototype stood 180cm (5’8″) tall and weighed 75kg (165 lbs).
The i-foot made its official debut in December 2004, and was a much larger 232cm (7’6″) tall, 200kg (440 lbs) bipedal walker with inverted knees ala ED209 from Robo Cop. It can carry 60kg (132 lbs), and has a walking speed of 1.35km (0.84mi) per hour. You strap yourself in, it stands up, and walks under your control. Besides walking forwards, backwards, and sideways, the i-foot can go up and down stairs and even perform some dance steps. When walking next to someone, a conversation is made easier by adjusting the height of the robot to eye-level, something you can’t do in a wheelchair.
Safety has been given priority in its design, with the cockpit protected in key areas by the shell-like design. There are also lights located in its ankles and on the shell for increased visibility. However, one might end up in a real bad way should the i-foot choose to faceplant on a set of stairs.
- Toyota i-foot (official press release EN)
- Toyota i-foot prototype (official press release EN)
- Toyota i-foot @ Impress Robot Watch (JP)