Moonwalkers claim to help you accomplish that. Designed by a team of Carnegie Mellon University engineers who banded together to found Shift Robotics, these battery-powered attachments strap onto almost any pair of shoes to give you an enviable speed boost. Instead of free-wheeling like roller skates, Moonwalkers’ eight polyurethane wheels work with a set of built-in sensors to switch between “lock” and “shift” modes, which prevent the wheels from spinning when the wearer is navigating stairs, using public transit, or otherwise requiring full motion control. These modes also help the wearer stop within one meter even at top speed, which is said to be 250 percent faster than the wearer’s normal walking speed.
The attachments’ chassis are made entirely from aluminum to prevent crushing and assist in thermal management. The 300-watt electric motor, which powers the wheels for up to six miles of active use per charge, is fully sealed to protect against water and debris ingress. According to Shift, this is what allows Moonwalkers to navigate puddles and sidewalks that are in less-than-perfect condition. Because Moonwalkers are designed to match the wearer’s gait, there’s said to be zero learning curve, which can’t be said for conventional equipment like roller skates and rollerblades.
It’s hard to avoid wondering if Moonwalkers are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. After all, a full range of motion is still required to use them; they don’t serve as a mobility aid for those who can’t already walk, and since they use wheels, Moonwalkers are rendered pointless on most unpaved surfaces. (You certainly can’t bring them on a hike or to the beach, where walking is arguably more exhausting.) Shift Robotics seems to be positioning its attachments as a way to make city life a bit more efficient: “With Moonwalkers, you can pick up your dry cleaning across town, carry those grocery bags a little easier, grab those last-minute dinner items much quicker, or whatever else with much more ease,” its Kickstarter page reads.
But at $799 to $1,299 per pair (depending on the Kickstarter campaign’s progress), the cost of that added efficiency is pretty steep. This means Moonwalkers’ target audience is quite small: Frugal budgeters, rural dwellers, and those who like to stop and smell the roses need not back this project.
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