The Energy Harvesting Dérive

Jean-Baptiste Labrune recently pointed me to this excellent overview of “Walking as art.” Here’s a new project to add to that list:

The Energy Harvesting Dérive turns the popular Heelys roller sneaker into a platform for generating electricity from human motion.


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, directions appears on the screen every 15 to 20 feet. They invite 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.

The addition of locative technologies such as GPS is feasible, but the intention of these shoes is rather 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.

Besides, The Energy Harvesting Dérive, developed by Christian Croft & Kate Hartman, hopes to promote discussion in the realm of sustainable energy development and alternative transportation design.

Documentation about the making process.

The project will be presented at dorkbot NYc on September 5, 2007, at 7pm and during the Conflux Festival in Brooklyn on Sunday, September 16, 2007, 12:00pm — 5:00pm.

Related: Net_Dérive, the city as instrument.

More walking: the Walking Machine, Self-Sustainable Chair, Walking the Cabbage, Uniblow Outfits, the muk.luk.flux boots, etc.