Moonwalker robotic shoes get lighter and smarter

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Next week at CES, Austin-based Shift Robotics will debut a revamped version of their viral hit robotic shoes. The Moonwalker X is a full pound lighter per shoe and features some key control system upgrades. The new shoes will also be available in smaller sizes.

The original Moonwalkers caused a major splash online when they were announced via  Kickstarter in October 2022. Videos of users appearing to effortlessly glide across sidewalks helped propel the campaign to $329,000.

I wrote them up back in May, after I had a chance to try them out at the Automate conference in Detroit. I – like many others – commented on two key drawbacks with the system. First, they weighed four pounds per shoe. Second, there’s a definite learning curve – something I discovered quickly using them to navigate a bustling show floor.

It seems the company has tackled both issues with the new versions of the shoes debuting next week. The shoes will go on sale soon – though exact timing and price have yet to be revealed. The originals were quite cost prohibitive at $1,400. Of course, R&D is a big factor in first generation hardware prices. A small production run was almost certainly at play, as well – price per unit tends to drop considerably as you scale.

I was a bit surprised to see the high-tech roller skates at an industrial show like Automate last year, but as I noted at the time, Shift has identified a major potential market in the logistics/warehouse world.

“In developing X, our focus was clear: enhancing productivity without compromising safety,” says founder and CEO Xunjie Zhang in a release. “By collaborating closely with our 3PL partners, we’ve tuned Moonwalkers X to meet the rigors of warehouse environments with an unwavering commitment to worker safety.”

Given that the price will likely remain prohibitive for many consumers, focusing on workplace productivity makes sense. Companies will happily shell out money for technology they believe will save them in the long run.

More next week as we go hands-on at CES.

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