Toyota Harness Hamster Power

29 January 2002

The 26th Annual Toyota Idea Olympics

Nowhere else could you find a car that looks like a ladybird that is powered by hamsters and a wheelchair that can go up and down stairs but Japan and the annual Toyota Idea Olympics.

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 and exciting way. Bizarre and wacky as they may seem these ideas are born out of innovative techniques and technical skill, which one day may become a reality as an integral part of a future vehicle. That said, pet lovers should rest easy – we don’t see the hamster power idea going into production.

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. Acceleration is provided by telling the hamsters, “Freddie Star’s coming!” Only joking.

“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

This board can slant forward and backward and left and right, so it provides an enjoyable riding experience, like riding a surfboard on land. The operator steers by changing the direction of the wheels through a planetary gear incorporated into the wheel assembly and manipulating a clutch.


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Toyota Harness Hamster Power


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