Brilliant minds in the transportation industry worldwide are pulling out all the stops in an effort to design and develop improved personal mobility devices and systems.

The trend towards communal sidewalk-based personal mobility systems such as shared e-bikes and scooters piqued the interest of engineering students at the University of Tokyo — and they took the idea and ran with it.

Looking at possible ways to improve the world of urban sidewalk mobility by reducing cluttered sidewalks and improving safety for both riders and pedestrians, the students developed a working prototype for an inflatable e-bike/scooter. You read that correctly — a blow-up e-bike.

Emerging as a package of folded-up fabric from a standard-sized backpack, Poimo (POrtable and Inflatable MObility) can be quickly inflated with a small hand pump into a comfortable and relatively safe mobility system that can be deflated and returned to the backpack when the rider completes the trip.

Poimo’s body is made of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and it takes a little more than a minute to plump out Poimo to an optimal operating pressure of only about 7 psi, roughly half of what’s required to inflate a soccer ball.

The final step is to attach the rigid components, including plastic wheels (two 8-inch front, two 6-inch rear), brushless motor, battery (about the size of a deck of cards) and a wireless controller integrated into the handlebars. While the total weight of all this stuff is about 12 pounds, Poimo itself, poised to ride, weighs in at scarcely more than five pounds. Designers say they are already finding ways to make future editions of Poimo even lighter and more portable.

In its original prototype form, it has been likened to Disney’s inflatable robot character Baymax (from “Big Hero 6”). One female test rider said it was like “riding a big teddy bear.” Poimo can support riders up to 250 pounds and can achieve speeds of 4-5 mph — equivalent to a brisk walking pace.

According to researcher Ryosuke Yamamura, who helps lead the project (jointly undertaken by the University of Tokyo and the Japanese research organization Mercari R4D) the soft body will protect pedestrians as well as the rider in the event of an accident, creating a “new relationship between people and mobility.”