Japanese engineers develop flying chair

  • It's much, much more fun being old in Japan. While we get boring old wheelchairs, they get flying ones.

    Tsunesuke Furuta of the rehabilitation department at Japan's Kobe Gakuin University has designed a levitating chair for the elderly and for people with mobility problems.

    Inspired by an arcade air hockey puck, the chair floats on a cushion of air like a hovercraft, supported by slow-moving jets of air which are trapped by the rubber rim.

    It can handle a weight of up to 330 pounds, say its designers, moves backwards as well as forwards, and can take corners with ease.

    Unfortunately, though, it can only hover a few inches off the ground, and gets a bit bogged down by carpets or tatami mats.

    The chair can either be fitted with a chair similar to a car seat, or with a traditional Japanese zabuton cushion - a bit like a flying

    carpet.

    You can see a rather nervous-looking old boy testing it out at a recent robot fair in Osaka in a video, here.

    Furuta and his team say they are looking for partners to help produce the chair commercially.