Moving people about at speeds faster than walking is a
problem that has been solved in many ways. There are
trains, cars, aeroplanes, hydroplanes, ekranoplans, rocket
sleds, regular sleds, Zeppelins, hovercraft, horses and no
doubt many combinations and crossover transport types*.
involve some walking however. You have to walk
to the rocket sled, to the aeroplane. Even within a
Zeppelin, passengers were made to walk to a special room
for smoking**. Any improvement in the overall walking
process would therefore pay off across the board.
So, the average stride length is around 30 inches. What if
we could increase this? Stilts would work, but the extra
tailoring is prohibitively expensive, besides, you'd look like
plasterer. You can simply extend the legs further forward
and back, by bending more at the hips, but this makes you
look like a Monty Python sketch and isn't very dignified or
efficient. You could have your legs broken and extended,
but an extra inch here only gains a fraction of an inch in
Technology to the rescue. Shoes. Shoes have been passive
for too long. So, active shoes with motor actuated
moveable soles. The base of the shoe is a standard grippy
coating. This is attached to several structural components
with full width and say 10mm length. These should be
laterally stiff. The effect should be like a rubberized tank
track. This should slide fore and aft on a number of ball
races with travel limits. The total travel should be a couple
of inches more or less.
This can then be actuated by a small motor. For gearing
and fail-safe reasons a worm-drive to rack system would be
ideal here. To control this motor, a collection of control
electronics will determine the fore-aft movement of the
sole. Briefly, you will lift your foot up, the sole moves all
the way forward. You place your foot on the floor and
move it backward relative to your body. As this is
happening, the motor will move the sole backward also.
Now you have your regular stride, + 2 inches. As you take
the next step*** you lift your foot bring it up and forward.
While this is happening, the sole moves back to the
Fine tuning of the movement rates will be required, as
monitored by accelerators and so on. But overall people
are pretty adaptable to this sort of thing. If you replace
the worm gear with a multi step regular gear train, you
could get regenerative braking on downhill sections.
While 2 inches would only be a 6.66% improvement on
normal walking speed, I have noticed people walk faster
than normal on airport travelator things. I assume the
faster progress encourages more effort.
The military will probably just go with full revolving tank
*The lack of rocket and hover horses is a shocking
**Safety Nazis, literally.
***Alternative leg recommended.