Robotics startup develops shoe accessory that increases your walking speed to a run
Move at up to 7mph just by walking your normal paceBy Cal Jeffrey 22 comments
TL;DR: Shift Robotics has developed a set of shoe accessories called "Mookwalkers." It is a 21st-century take on the early 20th-century strap-on skate. Unlike their early or even modern predecessors, Moonwalkers use sensors, AI software, and two 300-watt motors to control braking and acceleration, so all the user has to do is walk. The skates can boost normal walking speed by up to 250 percent.
The way Moonwalkers work is simple. Sensors in each skate measure the user's gait. Built-in AI algorithms calculate the walker's speed and acceleration and fluidly adjust motor speed automatically, so the change doesn't create a shift in balance. All the user has to do to control speed is to walk faster or slower to accelerate or decelerate.
Each Mookwalker has 10 polyurethane wheels. Electric motors on each skate power eight of the wheels for up to six miles on a single charge (about an hour). An unpowered pair is attached to a hinged toe so users can walk naturally --- heel-to-toe --- allowing the front part to bend on the backstep. The hinge also acts as a toggle switch for safely walking up or down stairs.
When stopped, lifting the heel tells the software to lock the wheels. The user can then move forward without the motors engaging. The a similar gesture reengages the wheels when reaching the top (or bottom) of the stairs. This feature could also be helpful in high congestion situations, although Shift claims slowing your gait should slow the motors enough to be safe when walking near others.
"Our AI has instantaneous response times, so they are super agile, and you can seamlessly move about crowds," the FAQs read.
Moonwalkers do come with certain limitations. They only have a maximum speed of 7 mph, not ideal for running or moving faster, even when going downhill. Despite their "agility," they still need time to slow to a stop --- about three feet from top speed --- so users need to plan ahead and begin slowing their gait earlier than walking.
Shift was formed by a team of Carnegie Mellon robotics engineers who spun off their research into a private company. The group started a Kickstarter campaign hoping to raise $90,000 for an initial production run. As of publication, the project has raised more than double its goal --- $186,875.
The high-tech skates aren't cheap, either. "Early birds" can score a pair with a $999 donation ($799 and $899 packages sold out). Shift is looking to charge about $1,400 in the retail market. Kickstarter supporters can expect their Moonwalkers to ship next March.