Shift Robotics has designed the ‘world’s fastest shoes’ or The Moonwalkers, as the company has called them. They are powered by a tiny electric motor which turns 8 wheels on the base of the shoe. With the shoes on, an individual can walk at 11 kilometers per hour, which is the sped of a run. They contain an AI system that adapts to the wearer’s gait making them an “extension of people’s legs”. They have a range of roughly 10 km before recharge.
Robotics engineers at Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) created the company under the leadership of founder Xunjie Zhang. Zhang had the idea when he was almost knocked off his scooter on the way to work and decided to walk instead. The shoes could offer a healthy, low-carbon way to commute and help those who can’t walk long distances get places faster.
Moonwalkers work like roller skates but without the user having to know how to ride on them. According to its developers, the wheels attached to the shoes are very easy to use and increase walking speed to more than double the average.
The devices can be incorporated into almost any shoe and each has a 300 W electric motor for eight polyurethane wheels, like those that might be found on traditional inline skates. However, the wheels of the Pennsylvania engineers’ invention are smaller and do not sit in a single line, making it easier to balance.
Moonwalkers have sensors that analyze the gait of the wearer and the data they collect is managed by an algorithm. In this way, its technology manages to adapt to the individual, making the power of the motors automatically adjust to each foot and increase or decrease the additional speed they provide according to the user’s gait.
On the toe part of the foot, there is a piece that can be bent thanks to hinges so that it flexes like shoes do. This feature allows them to feel more comfortable and natural than other devices that might be used to try to walk faster. Normally, people walk between 4 and 6.4 kilometers per hour. Moonwalkers can reach a top speed of about 11.26 km/h (6 miles). Their creators designed them to reach only that speed, even when the user is walking downhill.
According to Shift Robotics, their invention is intended for use on stairs as well. To do so, individuals must perform a special gesture that locks the wheels so that they can climb without the wheels slipping. Turning the heel would put the Moonwalker back into “shift” mode.
The cost, however, may be prohibitive. At the moment, Shift Robotics’ creation has raised €96,682 through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Customers can back the project for $999 (about €1,001) a pair, cheaper than the price it is expected to have when it hits the market in March 2023. At this point, however, it is not certain that the item will eventually be marketed.