The Motowalk is a conceptual people mover using motorized spheres embedded in a boardwalk to carry people across business districts. This would be a new type of multidirectional boardwalk changing how people in densely populated cities travel from one location to another during their workday.
A few years ago, we went to Walt Disney in Florida with our kids, and we rode the Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover, promoted as a futuristic urban mass transit system. Of course I immediately wondered about upgrading it: what if we could create a system that would be able to move people around the city without using electric cars? What if the sidewalk itself could move you in whatever direction you wish?
How does it work?
The Motowalk would be shaped like a standard moving walkway. There would be guardrails so you can hold on to them, but the difference would stop right there. The floor of the Motowalk would be designed so as to move you in the direction you are going. As you can imagine… that is the tricky part!
For this, Adolfo Esquivel (the industrial designer who created the images of this concept) proposed to use microspheres that would roll in any intended direction with the help of electromagnets. The induced movement could make someone fall, but s/he could use them to ‘translate’, meaning that people would slide on Motowalks and could even take curves.
Basically, when hopping on the Motowalk, you’d hold on to the rail and initiate a slide. The system would then accelerate and make sure you remain balanced. It would need some getting used to, but I can imagine kids will pick it up really fast. One could also ride it with a ‘slide board’ or set preferences to a slower speed.
The guardrails would be positioned along the road, so that you could always hold on to them if you don’t feel secure. The spheres could also remain ‘fixed’ if you prefer not to ride. In other words, the Motowalk could behave like a regular sidewalk or a moving walkway, or an advanced translating device capable of creating curved paths.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the ‘solar roadways’ concept, but I like the embedded LED lights and signals they proposed so that images could be projected on the floor to warn users about oncoming traffic or set directions. The Motowalk would be a smart device, meaning that it would connect with your phone to bring you where you want to go.
What purpose does it serve?
The Motowalk is a specialised people mover designed for very densely populated urban areas (like Shibuya, in Japan, for instance). It could be at first built inside research centers, universities, airports and malls, then gradually introduced in outdoor areas. There are others ways to design such a system, and, if you have some suggestions, we’d be happy to hear from you!
The industrial designer
I would like to thank Adolfo Esquivel who created the graphic renderings of the Motowalk. Adolfo graduated with an Industrial Design degree from Colombia and completed his postgraduate education in Events Design at UQAM (Montreal). Adolfo also created the images of the Firesound flying saucer drone and of the Jacknife morphing car.