Sonic Navigation with Heelys

“Energy Harvesting Dérive” is a fun audio and visual Heely Hack by Christian Croft and Kate Hartman.

The project was presented at Conflux last week where I had a chance to talk to both of them. They started off with the LED arrows to guide people in a direction; but then realised that it is a bit awkward to look at your shoes while heelying along. So they decided to add sound, three distinct sounds for the directions. Mobile sonic navigation that is good fun!

Presented at the Sunday Block Party at

About the project:
‘Customized rolling sneakers remove you from your typical city routine, guiding you to follow random directions with wearable electronics sustainably powered by your own rolling motion.
Energy Harvesting Dérive
The Energy Harvesting Dérive combines new modes of pedestrian movement with alternative energy research goals. The project hacks the recently popular Heely’s 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 drive. 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.’


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