Called Poimo, which stands for portable and inflatable mobility, the scooter comprises a body made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) and detachable components including handles, wheels, a battery and motor.
Likened by its creators to the inflatable robot Disney character Baymax, otherwise known as Big Hero 6, the body of the scooter can be inflated within minutes using a small pump.
Designed for short trips around the city or last-mile journeys, the Poimo is light enough to be deflated, folded down and carried around in the user's bag, allowing them to get on and off anywhere they wish.
Poimo was the result of developments in soft robotics technology and personal mobility – something the researchers call "soft mobility", designed to be soft, lightweight and inflatable.
While many other micro-mobility solutions such as electric bikes, scooters or skateboards are used for last-mile journeys from a train station or bus top to the user's final destination, these designs still encounter issues in regards to portability, safety, and price.
This is down to their "rigid, heavy, and bulky properties", explained the Poimo designers.
"About 60 per cent of car trips in Japan are short distances, which is not very good in terms of congestion and greenhouse gases," they continued. "This is a similar situation in other countries."
"We believe that new mobility like Poimo is needed to replace this with short-range-only personal mobility."
The rigid components of the scooter, which include two eight-inch front wheels, two six-inch rear wheels, a motor, a built-in wireless controller and a 70 by 110 millimetre-long battery, weigh around 5.5 kilograms in total.
Poimo was born out of a discussion at a research camp attended by University of Tokyo researchers Hiroki Sato, Young Ah Seong, Ryuma Niiyama and Yoshihiro Kawahara.
Here they came up with the concept for an inflatable mobility solution that would be safe in a crash and portable when not in use.
According to the designers, the soft body would protect pedestrians as well as the rider in the event of an accident, creating a "new relationship between people and mobility".
The inflatable characteristic of the scooter also means it can be easily customised, say the researchers. As the body is made from "pasted together" fabrics, the user can make it into whatever shape they desire.
While the scooter is currently just a prototype, Mercari R4D and the research team claim that the final product will be lighter and even more portable than at present.
Electric scooters are becoming increasingly popular for city travel in a bid to alleviate the growing issue of congestion.
Hyundai also created a prototype scooter in September 2019 that folds down to the size of a backpack and weighs just 7.7 kilograms.