Xunjie Zhang is on a mission to revolutionize walking. Not with a pedometer or even with a perfectly curated Spotify playlist (although his idea doesn’t rule out bringing music along for the ride) but with the fastest shoes in the world.
Not quite roller skates or skateboards, these Moonwalkers are produced by Shift Robotics, of which Zhang is the founder and CEO.
In a promo video attached to the company’s new Kickstarter campaign and informational YouTube page, Zhang says walking is in need of an update.
“Our basic form of movement hasn’t changed in 6 million years, we still want the same way our great great great great grandparents walked: slowly,” Zhang said. “The way we walk is stuck in the past. It’s time to bring it up to speed.”
Remember the Heelys your local school probably banned back in the aughts? Moonwalkers are reminiscent of them, except high-tech. The company boasts that Moonwalkers are powered by robotics and designed by race car engineers, and let a person walk at the speed of a run by putting “everything” you’d find in a car into a shoe, per the company. The shoes can do stairs, they can do sidewalks, and despite the tech involved, they can even get through puddles unscathed.
Zhang said if he hadn’t nearly been hit by a car five years ago while he was riding a scooter, the shoes and the company — founded shortly after he graduated from Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute — might not even exist.
“I started asking myself why I never walked just for 30 minutes,” Zhang said. “It’s not only a safe, convenient and healthy way of getting around, but also part of who we are. So I made that mission to enhance walking, instead of replacing it.”
According to Zhang and the demonstration videos, if you used Moonwalkers you could get all the exercise entailed in walking, just faster. But taking walking into the future is an endeavor that requires funding, which is why at the end of October, the company launched the Kickstarter with a goal of raising $90,000.
As of Wednesday evening, it’s raised a whopping $230,885.
The retail price for Moonwalkers will be $1,399, but should you choose to donate, depending on how early you chipped in, in return you’d receive between 21% to 43% discount on the list price. Moonwalkers are expected to be delivered in spring 2023.Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
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