The shoes contain sensors that collect data on your gait. Machine learning algorithms use this information to control the speed at which eight motorized wheels on the bottom of each shoe rotate, enabling you to walk a mile in 8.6 minutes!
Shift Robotics, a Pittsburgh-based startup, has created “shoes” that let you walk 250% faster without using up extra energy – and you can purchase a pair for $1,400.
Slow Walk: Traveling by bicycle, skateboard, or scooter is often more eco-friendly than taking a car, and in places where traffic congestion can make even a 5-minute drive into an unpleasant 20-minute trek, it may even be faster.
All those devices require some level of skill to use, however, so rather than risk crashing, those with less motor control often opt for the so-easy-a-toddler-can-do-it alternative: walking. Unfortunately, this alternative can be painfully slow.
“Just walk faster to accelerate and walk slower to decelerate.”
Moonwalkers: Mechanical engineer Xunjie Zhang used to commute by scooter to work, but after nearly getting into a crash while walking faster, he made it his mission to find ways for people to walk faster without expending more energy or taking additional safety risks.
After graduating from Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute, he founded Shift Robotics with a team of engineers, roboticists, and sneaker designers. Together they created “Moonwalkers,” an innovative combination of shoes and motorized roller skates that can increase one’s walking speed by 250%.
Moonwalkers Work: Moonwalkers attach to the bottom of any shoes you wear. To activate them, lift one heel and give it a slight twist before setting it back down; to deactivate them again, lift that same heel and put it straight back down.
Once activated, sensors in the shoes collect data on your gait pattern. Machine learning algorithms then use that information to control how quickly eight motorized wheels at the bottom of each shoe rotate.
“No need to balance,” Zhang noted. “Just walk faster to accelerate and slower to decelerate.”
On average, people walk between 2 and 4 miles per hour; at 3 miles per hour, it will take 20 minutes to cover a mile. But Moonwalkers can increase this rate to 7 miles per hour, taking only 8.6 minutes for every mile covered.
You won’t feel any extra effort at that pace but will still progress faster. It’s like walking on an airport-moving sidewalk — without making any extra effort yet still moving more quickly.
No need to fear flying down a hill when stopping; stop walking – even at top speed, you’ll come to a complete halt within three feet – about the same distance it would take if you tried stopping while jogging.
The company boasts that these shoes can handle rough urban terrain, even heavily cracked sidewalks.
Shift notes, “Our 8-wheel patented drivetrain was engineered with overlapping wheels to replicate much larger diameter wheels for climbing over uneven terrain and gravel.” Brick or cobblestone streets can also be easily traversed.”
Moonwalkers boasts a range of 6 miles and require 1.5 hours to charge fully via USB-C. Each “shoe” weighs 4.2 pounds, so if you need to wear them while walking upstairs (be sure to deactivate them first to lock the wheels), expect some extra exercise!
Moonwalkers are designed to fit shoe sizes between men’s 9-12 and women’s 11-5. The shift has beta tested the devices on people wearing men’s and women’s shoes from as small as women’s size seven up to men’s size 14; no issues were experienced by any of them when walking in them.