Energy harvesting rolling sneaker that delivers random directions to you as you roll.

The Energy Harvesting Dérive combines new modes of pedestrian movement with alternative energy research goals. The project hacks the recently popular Heelys roller sneaker to transform it into a platform for generating electricity from human motion.

Rather than reducing harnessed energy to the practical chore of battery charging, this work applies its energy towards a more playful application in hopes to promote discussion in the realm of sustainable energy development and alternative transportation design. Electricity harvested from rolling powers a microcomputer and lcd display embedded on the shoe to deliver random directions for a pedestrian to follow. Arrows and text show up on the screen display telling the wearer which direction she should travel next -- North, Northeast, Southwest, etc. Depending on the speed of rolling, a directive appears on the screen every 15 to 20 feet. These directions drive the wearer to follow a random zig-zaggy path that mimics in physical space the mathematical simulation of the random or drunkard's walk. The design motivation behind the sneakers' functionality is also informed by the Situationist practice of the dérive. Locative add-ons to the existing prototype such as GPS are feasible, of course, but the intention of these shoes is currently to incite their users to get lost and explore territory outside of their typical transport routines. The shoes force their owner to make choices about whether or not to challenge urban obstacles or interrupt automobile traffic when instructed to move in seemingly hard to traverse directions. Participating in an Energy Harvesting Dérive thus fosters an exploration of the city and its flows. It reveals the impacts of urban planning decisions and encourages users to act out and playfully brainstorm alternative modes of transport and energy.

More info on the technology / process of making the shoes as well as some videos of its construction are on my ITP Sustainable Energy page over here.

This project was developed in collaboration with Kate Hartman.

Click to view images of the process...

Energy Harvesting Dérive has been featured in the 2007 Conflux Festival, Make Magazine, Page Magazine, Boing Boing, We Make Money Not Art, and Treehugger.

Motivating concepts...


The mathematical phenomenon of the random or drunkard's walk. The patterns that emerge with this random behavior will make way for some interesting directional flows.
And of course, the idea of the dérive, a wandering walking practice introduced as a practice by the Situationists.