A new way to experience the city: Walking with AI by Moonwalkers

Moonwalkers

New AI technologies keep coming and coming. From AI that generates images which some consider art and some not, from AI that we can have a conversation or even do our writing works. Right now, a different way of using AI makes our cities walkability, Moonwalkers.

The Pittsburg-based engineering company led by its founder, Xunjie Zhang called Shift Robotics launched a Kickstarter campaign for their AI-based shoes which is called Moonwalkers and raised over 320,000 dollars.

Moonwalkers may look like sandals or simple roller skates however they use a combination of AI and machine learning to help the user’s movement and make it swifter than your typical pair of shoes without the need for running, therefore, it is labeled as “the world’s fastest shoes”. The reason it’s called shoes, is you are required to wear them onto your shoes to boost your walking.

Moonwalkers

Moonwalkers can boost your walking speed by up to 250 percent. A normal person’s walking speed is between 4.8 Km/h and 6.4 Km/h, with Moonwalker this can be boosted to 7MpH which means 11.2 Km/H. For the compression with scooters, your speed is between 24 Km/H to 40 Km/H. Although thanks to its machine learning algorithms with Moonwalkers you can stop immediately, and turn it on and off if you are about to hop on a bus or take some stairs.

For a more brief explanation of its user experience. The shoes start in lock mode with breaks on. In order to unlock the wheels, all you need to do is lift your right heel and flick it toward your left leg. If the LED light on the side turns green you are good to go. If you want to go back to lock mode well, you must stop and lift your right heel again. Which lets you take the stairs without taking them off.

When it comes to its walking, the campaign actually summarizes it, “To walk faster, you just walk faster. To slow down, walk slower. To stop, well, you stop walking.” Believe it or not, it is actually that simple. A brushless DC motor distributes power across eight plastic wheels, which react to the natural movement of each ankle to transition between the Go and Stop modes.

Moonwalkers

An anterior hinge allows the foot to flex naturally at the toes, maintaining mobility and balance, while an electronic, multi-layer brake protection system allows you to use stairs, elevators, and public transportation without fear of falling on your nose. Shift Robotics explains “Walk how you usually do, and our AI adapts to you”.

On the website of Shift Robotics, they explain “It’s not skating; it’s genuinely walking, so no new skills are necessary to learn. The learning curve is typically under 10 steps. To walk faster, you just walk faster. To slow down, walk slower. To stop, well, you stop walking.”

Well, what are the benefits of the eight wheels? Shift Robotics was founded in 2018. Since then Moonwalkers had nine major design changes. The first design only had two wheels and was controlled by a small motor with the user wearing a microcontroller and a battery strapped on their waist. In the final version, they have eight wheels, three on each side and one at the back, and one at the front.

Moonwalkers

Nonetheless, they stacked two of the side wheels, which allowed them to double the radius of the wheels. The reason behind all these decisions is simply solving how to go over bumps and cracks on the road with avoiding making the wheels larger. Those eight wheels help you to go over cracks and bumps without a problem or danger, designers knew that streets are not perfect.

Why the Moonwalkers in the first place? The founder of the company Xunjie Zhang says that he came up with the idea after he almost got hit by a car while riding a scooter on the street.

“I asked myself why I never walked to work – and it’s not just me, a lot of people don’t rely on walking, which is surprising considering it’s much safer, easier, and more convenient, plus it’s better for the environment,” Zhang said in a statement.

Therefore he also states that Moonwalkers are meant to be used on the sidewalk to lower the risk of collision.

Moonwalkers can seem difficult to use but from its reviews, we understand that the first steps can be difficult, yes but after 10 steps you get to the hang of it and AI starts to adapt your walking speed and you can recharge using a USB-C cable, and charger, which means if you are an Android user, your phone charger will do. Although this does not mean Moonwalkers does not have minuses.

Moonwalkers weighs about 4.2 pounds which are 1.9 kg. This means you have to carry something weighing 2 kg on your shoes every day. When it comes to its price, it’s 1.399 dollars, and deliveries are not expected until Aprile. So, this makes Moonwalkers a luxury item.

Like how it happened to an electric scooter, once it was a luxury item and now it’s everywhere, we believe that yes right now it’s a luxury item and it is not a must-have item. Although in time it will go lower. Since this is a new technology. In time and with AI’s help our cities will be less automobile-centralized cities and turn into more pedestrian-centralized cities.

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