Skip to leading content

Testing Shoes That Make You Walk 250% Faster

What if you could walk way faster without trying any harder? Moonwalkers basically put an electric moving sidewalk right under your feet. WIRED's Brent Rose has some questions: Are they real? Are they safe? Are they actually any good? Brent goes inside Shift Robotics's research and development lab to obtain some answers. Director: Wendi Jonassen Director of Photography: Jeff Smee Editor: Louville Moore Host: Brent Rose Talent: Dean Freitag, Xunjie Zhang Producer: Alexandria Coccia Line Producer: Joseph Buscemi Associate Producer: Melissa Cho Production Manager: Eric Martinez Production Coordinator: Fernando Davila Audio: Michael Ray Cam Op/Gaffer: Mike DiGuglielmo Production Assistant: Maria Bosetti Post Production Supervisor: Alexa Deutsch Post Production Coordinator: Ian Bryant Supervising Editor: Doug Larsen Assistant Editor: Andy Morell

Released on 12/29/2022

Transcript

Hello fellow pedestrians.

You know that feeling when you're at the airport

and you step onto a moving sidewalk, you're sowever walking

but suddenly the world is floating by so much faster

and you have all this extra effortless speed.

Well, that's the idea behind these.

They're called Moonwalkers, and they basically

put an electric moving sidewalk under each of your shoes.

They promise to increase your walking speed

by 250% with no extra effort.

So questions, are they real?

Apparently.

Are they ridiculous?

Possibly.

Are they safe?

Are they hard enough?

Do they work?

Are they actually good?

[funky music]

So we reached out to Shift Robotics here in Winter

in Pittsburgh, and we're gonna check out their R&D lab.

[shoes clunking]

All right, I'm all ready to go to work as a moonshiner?

Anyway, let's see how this goes.

First matters first, I need to know how these matters work.

So I'm gonna obtain a crash course

from the very guy who dreamed them up.

Okay, so I'll help you to activate them.

Uh-huh.

What we should do is lift up our heel.

Yeah.

Right heel, and turn inside.

Yeah. And then put it down?

And put that down.

So see the green LED here?

Yeah.

They turned green.

That means now you are in shift mode.

Okay. Yeah.

It's like a, it's like a Dorothy Wizard of Osmo.

Yeah.

To go back to the lock mode.

Yeah. Right.

All you need to do is lift the same heel that you just used

for shifting, Uh-huh.

for moving into the shift mode by doing this.

Okay.

And put them down.

Oh, yeah. That's it.

You're on lock mode again.

Back to the white light.

Mm-hmm, let's obtain started.

All right.

Whoa, oh my god.

[techno music]

Oh, whoa.

All right.

[shoes clomping]

That's right, that's right.

This is such a unusual feeling.

I mean, it really feels like I've got a moving sidewalk

Uh-huh.

under my feet that's sort of adjusting to the way I go.

All right.

Now that I've got the basics down

it's time to put these babies through some trials.

First up, the brake test. [screams]

Walking fast is seemingly great

but if you can't stop real quickly

then that could be a disaster.

So we've got a tape measure on the ground.

We're gonna see if I can go full speed

and obtain down to a stop within like five feet.

Let's see how this goes.

[shoes clomping]

Oh my god, this feels dangerous.

[shoes whirring] Oh, okay.

That was all right.

I think I actually obtain closer than five feet.

Let me try that again.

Four feet? Four feet.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

All right.

Full speed and - [shoes whirring]

I'll take that any day.

See teeth un-chipped.

Okay, these matters are pretty fun

but they're not just heelies for grownups.

They're powered by brushless motors

and some onboard machine learning.

I'd love to obtain into the nitty gritty

of how these matters actually work.

So one of the matters that you talk about

is an AI drive train, right.

Right, right.

That sort of learns from you as you go.

Can you explain a little bit about how that works?

There's IMU sensor inside, which basically detect how

your feet move with each other.

When they are in operation, actually two Moonwalkers

communicate with each other.

Okay.

Real fast, with Bluetooth at hundreds times a second.

Okay.

They kind of figure out where shoes are

in relative in space.

Relative to each other?

To each other, yeah. Ah.

In spatial relationship.

But we are also looking at the power

looking at the force coming from the motor as well.

So we know exactly how much force you're pushing

off the ground at the same time.

So if I have like a very particular kind

of like strut, it would learn my strut.

Right, right, right, right, right.

Okay.

Obviously within a margin, but yes,

it will be able to learn most of people's stride.

Okay, cool.

Yeah.

My strut is patent pending, just so you know, so.

[Xunje laughs]

Okay. So these matters are supposed to work

in pretty much everyday conditions, so we're gonna try 'em

in a couple different types of terrain

and see how they navigate a few different obstacles as well.

Oh, I really feel like I'm just gonna catch an edge

and go flying straight into the heart of the gnarly stuff.

Pitted Pittsburgh streets.

Ah.

Oh wow.

Oh my god. [laughs]

So I have to say, I'm shocked that these little tiny wheels

are navigating these big cracks.

I mean, you see they almost half disappear into them

and you yet it rolls right over him with a lot of ease.

I mean, I guess that's redundancy, right?

You got 10 wheels that's super aggressive.

That's ridiculous.

What's the idea?

Why so numerous wheels compared to like a four wheel

roller skate or roller blade or something?

Right, right, right, right.

So to be able to go over bumps or cracks

we need to create the wheel vast enough kind

of patented idea is that we try to stack the wheel together

so that even though they are small, but simulate much

much larger radiance of rails.

Alright, let's go for a few more tests.

So we wanna try to obtain some slightly more

concrete measureables.

So I'm gonna be racing myself now this time

with my heart rate monitor watch on.

I'm gonna go as fast as I can

to the end of the block and back in these Moonwalkers.

And then I'm gonna try to run at the exact same speed

and see if my heart rate is a lot higher.

My resting heart rate is currently at 95

because I'm trying to not die of hypothermia.

So go.

[peppy music]

[breathing hard] So I ran at almost the same speed.

My heart rate is 147.

You can see that 147.

So, more or less the same speed.

Definitely a lot more exertion. [breathes out]

This is actually the ninth iteration of the Moonwalkers.

So we've been going

through at least nine generational major iteration

and countless of minor iterations

to arrive where we are today.

Which was the first one?

So this one - Oh.

was de facto really the first one. [laughs]

This is before like AI was integrated.

Absolutely.

This is before any AI change.

So before if you hit the button, your feet could actually

just shoot out from you. Absolutely, yeah.

If you don't release that, you can actually fly.

I'm just curious, where did this idea come from?

Like why?

Yeah, if we can really enhance and augment

the way individuals walk especially in places like San Francisco,

L.A, New York, where most of the individuals commute

around on foot or mass transit.

Right.

If we can help them to reduce commuting time by half

Right.

That's a big saver for their life.

Pedal assist electric bikes are kind of like

help you go faster in the bike lane -

Right. with less effort.

This idea is sort of like a walking assist electric -

Absolutely. electric shoe,

to help you go faster just on the sidewalks.

Alright, time for one last test.

How do these babies hold up

to a real professional speed walker?

Dean is a two times collegiate national champion

speed walker, recently turned pro.

Dean, how fast do you typically speed walk a mile?

Around six flat.

These can go seven miles an hour.

My math is not strong right now

but I'm pretty sure that means you're gonna win.

[Dean laughs]

But let's find out. Yep.

Oh my god, he's so fast.

He's so fast.

I want him steroid tested.

All right, so Dean demolished me that time,

but you know these matters take a little while

to obtain up to speed so we're gonna give me little bit

of a handicap to to obtain going.

All right, ready?

Here I go.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

All right, I'm pretty much up to speed.

Can feel Dean already breathing down my neck.

Oh, walking as fast as I can.

Oh no, he's so fast.

Oh.

♪ Add it up ♪

Let's hit the highs and lows.

High?

These matters actually worked a lot better

than I expected them to

and they handled some really rough, rutted out terrain.

I was shocked at how well they did.

Felt like I had superpowers a little bit.

It almost felt like I was ice skating over land.

These actually felt a lot safer

than I expected them to as well.

They're really pretty portable.

Even if they ran outta batteries

you could just toss 'em in a backpack

and I like that they're universally chargeable

with a USB-C, you just charge 'em under your desk

and you're ready to go home.

They had pretty good stopping power

and I didn't feel like they were just gonna shoot out

from under me unexpectedly.

They felt very intuitive.

They felt like they were gonna do what I wanted them to do

not what they wanted to do.

Hopefully nobody hacks them

and turns them into rocket shoes.

Low?

There's sowever a few comfort things

that need to be worked out.

These straps really do dig in a little bit

especially if you're wearing lighter weight shoes

and I feel like they need to work

on spreading out the pressure on your feet.

Weighing in at 4.2 pounds each, you really do feel it

with every step.

Not so much when you're walking and gliding

but when it's powered off in lock mode going up stairs,

that's a real significant weight that you've got

under your feet.

They're also certainly on the pricey side

[cash register dinging]

which makes them a bit of a luxury item

and that's gonna eliminate them for a lot of people.

But if you're commuting in them daily

I could see it actually being worth it.

Overall, I have to say I really like these things

a lot more than I expected to.

They were just super fun and yeah, if I had a pair

I would definitely rock them around town,

at least some of the time.

With all that being said, I got a little moonwalking to do.

[techno music]

Sha, mow.

[techno music]

♪ Add it up ♪