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Sprinwalking, leged vehicles, and what this is all about

This site is supposed to give you an overview about walking machines, legged vehicles and other forms of human powered walking devices.
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We humans distinguish themselves from other mammals by two main characteristics:

    1) We walk on two legs, 2) we consider ourselves more intelligent.

It is the more surprising that we haven’t made use of our superior intelligence to optimize the first feature: our walking on two legs. Walking seems natural to us when asked to cover short distances or uneven tracks. But with just the same ease we switch to other ways of transport when asked to cover greater distances. The main reason for this is quite apparent: To travel over great distances rolling (i.e. bicycling) seems the superior method to walking because it takes less energy to cover the distance rolling than walking. But this is not always true as we can see when looking at the kangaroos. Kangaroos move with great speed and a low energy requirement. To do this they make use of two simple tricks:

1. For the most part they use their energy for forward movement!

This is the humans greatest deficit! When we walk we use up most of the energy for the push off and the springiness of our walk. We waste most of the energy used for our fight against gravity. The kangaroo does it differently. By a polished mechanism of muscle and tendons they are capable of storing the energy they create at the moment of push off and to make use of it at the next jump. It follows that the percentage of energy that the kangaroo puts to use for the actual process of locomotion is much higher than for other walking mammals.

2. They are using fewer but bigger jumps

So they have to fight gravity less often than normal walking mammals who are bound to use up  most of their strength in this hopeless fight. We humans haven’t made use of this phenomena to optimize our very own way of movement either.

There are only a limited number of patents and constructions that are concerned with walking machines or other muscle powered ways of locomotion without wheels. Most of these patents date back to the 1920s and are useless by today’s standards. The only jumping machine that has ever been widespread has been the pogo stick. The pogo stick makes use of a feather that stores the energy of the come down for the next push off. But yet again the pogo stick is unusable as a means for locomotion because he has only one ”leg” which makes movement almost impossible.

Pogo stick

As the pogo sticks fun factor was quite great market analysts came up with new variations of the old pogo stick: the kangaroo boots. But again: the kangaroo boots do not represent a way of transport. A further development are the kangaroo boots by Powerskip, shown below, their spring mechanisms has been further polished


kangoo boots

The only serious attempt to build a walking machine that makes use of the kangaroo technique was made in the early 1990s by NASA engineer John Dick and two others, who constructed a machine called springwalker which came up with promising test results. Walking / running up to 50 km/h, even on open country! After more tests  by the US army the further development of this construction was stopped and money was rather put to the construction of a motor powered version of the springwalker. Up till now the prototype of the original springwalker can still be viewed in the constructor’s shop in California. Right now there is a new attempt. (see more at springwalker_news)

In the mean time more groups of researchers have started working on alternative muscle powered ways of locomotion without wheels worldwide. The first results on their works in the fields of bionic, robotic and orthopedics have come in. Together with the experiences of the springwalker constructors’ they are building a team that is concerned with springwalking and other alternative ways of locomotion.

Springwalker;Copyrightt by James Balog; www.JamesBalog.com

What is happining next and in further future ? Find out at:  Future
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US Army

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