Have you seen the show Battlebots? We aren't saying this innocent-looking box on wheels will sprout a sawblade and go on the offensive, but it does resemble some of the radio-controlled bots that duke it out for robo supremacy. We have no idea if that's coincidental or if Hyundai drew some inspiration from the genre, but the fact that Hyundai calls this curious four-wheeled device a Mobile Eccentric Droid isn't lost on us, either.
Yes, that's the actual name for this weird new mobility offering from Hyundai, abbreviated to MobED for short. Its purpose is to be a small mobile platform that can operate in various situations on any terrain. To make that happen, it's fitted with what Hyundai calls an Eccentric Wheel drive system. The four wheels have independent power and steering capabilities, and underneath is an adjustable suspension system that can raise and lower depending on the terrain. That also means MobED can maintain a level attitude while going up or down slopes, and if time is of the essence, it can clip along at a brisk 19 mph.
Gallery: Hyundai Mobile Eccentric Droid (MobED)
"We have developed the MobED platform to overcome the limitations of existing indoor guide and service robots while maximising its usability in cities by dramatically improving the platform’s overall mobility," said Dong Jin Hyun, head of Hyundai Motor Group robotics lab. "We are also looking ahead to assess how potential users of MobED will further expand their needs and use for this type of technology."
We doubt any parent would be happy seeing their baby cruising down the sidewalk at 18 mph on an autonomous box, but Hyundai does envision parents as one of MobED's potential users. The flat surface can accommodate a wide range of items or platforms, and while it's technically capable of higher speeds and unmanned operation, a self-propelled stroller at walking speed under human control could indeed be a very welcome item for parents. Hyundai also sees MobED as offering assistance to elderly or disabled individuals, or as a mobile platform for robotic functions in tight quarters. Think Roomba, but with a bit less randomness.
Is this something you'll be able to buy soon? Hyundai doesn't mention anything about pricing or availability at this time, but more information could arrive in January when the MobED makes its official in-person debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.