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Motorised roller skates, from cartoon to reality

About the author

Ken is a freelance writer and editor who resides in suburban Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A former newspaper reporter and magazine editor, Ken has more than 25 years of editorial and communications experience.

Acton R RocketSkates

(Acton Global)

Once the province of comic books and children’s cartoons, rocket skates are no longer novelty props for Wile E Coyote and Batman. Acton, a California-based alternative-transport startup, has spun fictional straw into factual gold with its R RocketSkates, electric-powered footwear for city dwellers.

The brainchild of company founder and chief technical officer Peter Treadway, the RocketSkates take square aim at urban residents who too often find themselves at the intersection of too-close-to-drive and too-far-to-walk.

“In the late 1950s, people were predicting things like flying cars, jet packs and rocket skates,” Treadway says. “Well, one down and two to go.” (Actually, the flying car is a reality, courtesy of flights of fancy like the PAL-V One, Aeromobil and Terrafugia. But it’s hard to pick nits with the progenitor of something as novel as wearable transportation.)

The  rubber-wheeled super skates, which resemble Lego on wheels, or retro-geek mobility suitable for Maximus Prime and his ilk, are not short on technical specifications:

  • Each skate features by two 50w brushless motors, one inside each front wheel.
  • Rear-mounted lithium-ion battery packs, which fully charge in 1½ hours, power the motors.
  • The skates “talk” to each other via microprocessors, so they both maintain the same speed.
  • Top speed is estimated at 12mph, depending on various factors such as rider weight and wind speed.
  • Maximum rider weight: 275lbs
  • Dimensions: 8in x 8½in x 9in
  • Weight: 7lbs each 

Range and run times vary by model, of which there are three. The R6 can travel six miles and run for 45 minutes on a full charge; the R8 tops out at eight miles and 70 minutes; and the R10 maxes out at 10 miles and 90 minutes. The three models retail for $499, $599 and $699 respectively. As for hills, anything greater than a five- to eight-degree incline is a no-go.

Acton R RocketSkates R-10 'Deep Space Black'

Acton R RocketSkates R-10 'Deep Space Black'. (Acton Global)

Operation is decidedly simple. Just push off and tilt the skate forward to engage the motor – and fully embrace commuting or interpretive-dance whims. Tilting a skate backward engages an electric brake. Tilt it farther back and a mechanical brake kicks in, Treadway says.

RocketSkates offer a downloadable smartphone app that displays info such as battery life, miles travelled, suggested routes and speed.  Treadway also wants to  connect RocketSkates enthusiasts via Bluetooth.

“The idea of being able to wear your transportation is something that’s been brewing in me for a long time,” he says. Treadway conceived of the skates seven years ago while working on his thesis at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, one of the world’s foremost producers of transportation-design talent. “I don’t like the idea of carrying things around. Wearing something makes so much more sense.

“I developed about 50 or 60 prototypes,” he says of the skates, which offer adjustable foot plates that accommodate almost any style of shoe. “And now we’ve finally got the product rolling, literally and figuratively.”

Treadway expects the skates to go into mass production, in China, by the end of September. Though it is not easy to forecast the market for wearable mobility, at last count, Acton had raised slightly more than $300,000 via the crowd-funding platform Kickstarter, and reached its initial goal of $50,000 in less than 24 hours.

Who knows? Maybe Batman chipped in.

Acton R RocketSkates

(Acton Global)

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