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(Photo: Shift Robotics)
What if you could walk really quick? Okay, not Sonic the Hedgehog fast…and not Quicksilver either. Think more nearly three times as fast as you already cruise around the park or through a dying shopping mall.

Moonwalkers claim to help you achieve this. Designed by a team of engineers from Carnegie Mellon University who came together to create Shift Robotics, these battery-powered attachments attach to almost any pair of shoes to give you an enviable speed boost. Instead of rolling freely like roller skates, the 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 user moves up stairs, using public transit or on another way requiring full control of movement. These modes also help the user stop within one meter even at top speed which is claimed to be 250 percent faster than the user’s normal walking speed.

The chassis of the plug-ins is made entirely of aluminum to prevent crushing and aid in heat management. The 300-watt electric motor, which powers the wheels for up to six miles of active use on a single charge, is fully sealed to keep out water and debris. According to Shift, this is what allows Moonwalkers to navigation puddles and sidewalks that are not in perfect condition. Because Moonwalkers are designed to match the user’s gait, there is said to be no learning curve, which cannot be said for conventional equipment such as roller skates and inline skates.

It’s hard not to wonder if the Moonwalkers are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. After all, full range of motion is still required to use them; they don’t serve as a mobility aid for those who can no longer walk, and since they use wheels, Moonwalkers are pointless on most unpaved surfaces. (You certainly can’t take them on a hike or to the beach, where walking might be more exhausting.) Shift Robotics seems to be positioning its gadgets as a way to make city life a little more efficient: “With Moonwalkers, you can take your dry cleaning from across town, carry those grocery bags a little easier, grab those last-minute dinner items a lot faster, or whatever with a lot more ease,” Kickstarter page reads.

But at $799 to $1,299 per pair (depending on the progress of the Kickstarter campaign), the cost of this added efficiency is quite high. This means that the target audience for Moonwalkers is quite small: frugal budgeters, rural dwellers and those who like to stop and smell the roses do not need to support this project.

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