Journeys from home to the nearest bus stop, train station or news stand may well prove too far for walking, but not really far enough to justify the expense of getting in the car. For those in-between journeys, you need a lightweight personal transport solution. Maybe something like the Treadway Mobility which has been entered into this year's James Dyson Awards competition. Designed to strap over existing footwear or to step into, the wearable motorized shoes could just be geeky enough for tech fans and cool enough for thrill-seeking teenagers. But not just yet.
Gizmag has featured a number of short-range personal transport solutions over the years. It's fair to say that most of them have been either electric bikes or scooters, which are great but perhaps not quite as portable as a pair of trusty blades or roller shoes. After testing numerous personal propulsion methods – from wheels to tracks and tiny bicycles to scooters – Peter Treadway settled on "something that would be exhilarating, but safer than most other forms of small transportation, that would maintain the natural center of gravity without raising the user up to where they might lose their balance."
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The aim of the Treadway Mobility design is to produce something that can be operated using a wireless hand controller, simply straps onto existing footwear or allows the user to step in and then forget about them until needed. Treadway has built numerous proof of concept prototypes made from easily tweakable, but inevitably heavy, steel frames that are driven by lithium polymer battery-powered electric motors. As the design and the technology is refined towards production models, the Treadway system should become less awkward and industrial and more streamlined and fashionable like the design renderings that show colorful wheels and a rear LED lighting system for higher visibility at night.
Treadway has entered his concept into this year's James Dyson Awards competition, an international award scheme aimed at inspiring student designers and engineers (or recent graduates). The reward for the top placing is GBP10,000 (just over US$15,000) for the designer or team, another GBP10,000 for the university department to which he/she/they belong, a visit to the Dyson research & development facilities in either the UK or Malaysia and a trophy. The overall winner will be announced in October.
The following video shows a Treadway prototype or two in action.