As a fellow passionate creator, it pains me to see a video production like this. Having never seen this product before, I'd argue what interests most people first and foremost is seeing the product in action, and what's possible with them (which wouldn't be possible without).
It takes 18 seconds until the video actually shows them being used while worn. 25, if you want to see them running in real-time. The first time you actually get a sense of how they compare to anything else (bikes / cars) isn't until one minute and 16 seconds into the video. It boggles my mind. I understand that not everyone can be a video da vinci, but this video could be 1000 times better in so many ways.
It's literally the ideal product for a click-baity - WE OUTRUN A CAR/BIKE/OLYMPIC MEDAL WINNER - type video. Sure, have a little bit of a lead in, but then show him squaring off against 3 other commonly known modes of transportation etc. etc.
And don't even get me started on that constant heart-beat and increasingly present jet 'woosh' noise O_O.
You are spot on, most of the video shows somebody running alone.
It is uninteresting, just having shiny boots does not make such a clip attention grabbing..
He has great control (lots of practice I expect), but it also seems a longer lever should give greater acceleration - it's not quite hitting it. Hence no clear comparison and obscuring sound effects.
OTOH the story isn't about boots, but tilting at windmills, a perenially relatable theme. There's magic in realising an imagined experience.
Nobody wants to run around looking dorky. That would be fun for about 5 minutes. Absolutely not worth what these cost.
Start doing double backflips and 15 foot gaps and you have a sport.
They're pretty common, with several manufacturers making them to this day under different brands. Several of my friends own a pair.
To be fair, jumping stilts don't use quite the same mechanism as Bionic Boots, but the results are almost identical.
There was clearly a market for this invention - and somebody else actually filled that market very successfully.
Would walking around on patrol in a place like Afghanistan be more or less better if you were wearing these.
Can they be added to the bottom of the exoskeleton legs which allow relief from part of the weight of a pack - but then adding faster movement when wearing the exo-legs+pack?
Overall I can't really imagine it being good for the endurance-style activities for which humans are already quite well designed. In Afghanistan, at least for combat patrols, you might also have the problem of being taller (ie, a better target) and not being able to quickly take a knee, stumble, or go prone and get back up (ie, much much better target).
it looks like jumping stilts allow you to deliver a lot more energy in a short period - for instance, running up to 25mph, or jumping over cars - but you pay for that with significantly increased calorie burn and the use of many more muscles.
So, probably really not what you want for endurance activities such as foot patrol.
In addition, the springs in them need to be calibrated for the weight they're supporting, and they top out around 240lb / 110kg. So you'd need extra heavy duty ones for soldiers with packs, and then you couldn't use those once the packs had been removed.
Maybe if you had a situation where you needed a couple of soldiers to dump their packs, don a pair of these that they'd been carrying, and run somewhere really fast ... ;)
In related news, the Russian Army investigated gasoline-powered 'rocket boots' for soldiers. Because of course they did. Sadly they didn't work out too well.
"One result of the Russian space agency testing was a calculation that the energy in calories used to move the two-pound boot at a run would exceed the energy input from the gasoline engine. That meant, it was more tiring to run with the motorized footwear than without it, undermining the original rationale. Only if the weight could be reduced to below 2 pounds per boot would the wearer have a net energy gain. So far they have failed at this."
" 'The worst situation is when the spark fires as the runner just lands, and the force of the blast is absorbed by his body,' Mr. Garipov explains flatly."
Maybe not the best idea. (Although I reckon if you outfitted them with modern electronic ignition and a sensor to ensure that they'd bottomed out and begun recoiling before ignition, you could do a lot better...)
A fly-wheel-compression system on a brushless alternator would be an interesting addition to a spring-ish based stilt-prosthetic. Let it pump an alternator in the unit to create power for all the gear over time/distance?
I wonder if they could be used for more efficient exercise.
Speaking of which, did you see that he’s trying to develop a powered version?
The best thing the US military could do for soldiers in those circumstances over the next ~20 years, is reduce the enormous carrying weight they deal with now. Any sort of added foot instability (poor grip, too much boosted height, unnatural added spring force, wrong materials, too much cushion, etc) is very dangerous in a war zone.
Source: was in the infantry and spent some time reading up on it a decade ago
I thought that was the point of the "dog" robot from Boston Dynamics. Are those too expensive for deployment?
He should have realized his personal shortcomings and partnered with someone who had the qualities he lacked.
I agree too, the author really could have dug deeper and asked some questions instead of just focusing on his 30-years of failure (with some uplifting moments).
Your description more aptly fits Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.
This other dude isn't getting any milk. He's pulling a teet with nothing in it.
That's like trying to milk a starving cow, because none of the other animals on your farm are alive.
For a mass-market product, sure. But there’s no need to go from 0 to mass market. Had he priced his boots at $900 a piece and essentially sold prototypes, he may have been able to hit $100k in sales within a year. That’s the kind of traction investors look for.
As Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of the good.”
Instead, he tried to do everything himself thinking he was a real business genius when he only had the idea and was a decent engineer. This is a typical engineering mindset. Engineers think they are smarter than all these genius marketers and hustlers out there. They think that being good at math means you're good at marketing, but they are really different skills and good marketers and promoters should be respected for the unique and genuine value they bring.
I don't have an exact percentage, and percentage wise its probably low when factoring in all the websites in existence.
That's exactly my point.
The big lesson learn here is to seek help in the area where you failing in, in his case - closing those sales!
This is the most important line to me. I’ve heard so many horror stories along these lines.
Yet, does anyone here know why companies like Sarah Blakely’s Spanx didn’t suffer the same fate? Spanx is now a billion dollar company that launched with an easily clonable product.
She talks about how she filed a patent on her idea on her own with no lawyer and that was the only explanation. I don’t think she had a lot of money to fight cases.
Spanx succeeded because they built a brand around convincing a wide swath of the population that their life would be better if they wore a fancy girdle. Their success was because of sales excellence and a smart customer engagement campaign, not proprietary tech.
Even still, in the early days of their marketing campaign it would have been so easy for a foreign competitor to swoop in and make the same thing. I didn’t get the vibe that they grew that quickly, and I do get the vibe that there are foreign manufacturers on the hunt for ideas to copy.
I remember one of the top sales girls joking with her clients constantly after Christmas one year about how she’d had too much to drink at the Christmas party and she’d fallen and rolled or something and “next thing I knew my Spanx were hanging out”. And they’d all laugh uproariously as they held several pairs to buy.
It’s this magical sweet spot where they were just expensive enough to be special and “the real deal”. Competition didn’t matter. Price didn’t matter. Spanx mattered. I found it insanely interesting.
That people spend time to put parts together, including a fake circuit board with pretend-mounted components, to create a non-functional light, is just insane to me.
I wish there were "ethical patent enforcers" (not patent trolls) who for a small fee/equity, go after these legitimate patent infringing cases and help people like Seymour.
Well, sounds like truly free trade.
No patents, no copyright, no BS.
If you can make it and sell it cheaper than someone else, you win (and people get it without artificial restrictions on its production).
Truly free trade would mean I could just take one from a store since the owner isn't using all the duplicates in stock.
Only when it comes to profit. There are other motives for invention...
>Truly free trade would mean I could just take one from a store since the owner isn't using all the duplicates in stock.
Only that wouldn't be trade -- because you don't pay (trade money for the product). So, no.
Yes, producing 100K units will require serious capital. But producing a few units and test-marketing them on Amazon should be well within reach.
There are so many ways to do this. For example, how about starting with a signature edition, produced as a series of 10 units. The guy's had crazy media attention. There are people who know about him and who might be willing to buy a first-run as a collector play or simply to fund a man with relentless drive.
I suspect the investors and other companies he's pitching to see this and that's why they refuse to invest. They don't believe Seymour is the man to bring the idea to market.
And they may be right.
Seymour can solve this problem by:
1. switching focus to marketing;
2. bringing on an associate who is focused on marketing.
Some others here said it already, but he could have just accepted the orders, start manufacturing a small batch and sell them. Why was that impossible to do? The article is completely lacking that detail. Why the focus on getting an investor?
Hardware is a slow business by its nature, especially when coming into it from the inventor/designer side. But at some point the lean startup is right. "Fail Fast" has one concept at its core: win or lose, you have to execute. Keahi actually went out and built his design (which is more than many hardware inventors can say). But the next step in the execution of a consumer hardware business has to be building enough of your product to sell to customers, and that's a different skill set.
If you find yourself stuck in the design phase, try to find a way to push forward. If you're short on cash, maybe a group of early, dedicated customers (or a Kickstarter) can provide the funds you need to set up small-scale manufacturing. If you can't find some initial customers and can't successfully run a Kickstarter, at least you'll know it's time to move on. Hardware's a tough industry, and I firmly believe that there are plenty of great ideas out there that would survive if they could get past this particular bump.
Anyway, I hope he manages to push past the design phase and into production - it's a cool product, and one that I'd love to be able to buy someday.
Figure out how many pairs you'd have to manufacture so you can amortize the cost of making your molds and other setup to around $500 a boot. Maybe you've already got those, maybe they're only sized for your feet and you need to re-work them to be adjustable, I dunno.
Kickstart a run of a couple thousand, then go talking to bigger manufacturers.
Or maybe you've thought about this already and it turns out scaling up is gonna take something more in the range of tens of thousands of pairs of boots, maybe they're just stuck at $1k/pair, I dunno what the materials cost is on these things. I'd kinda worry about the legal liability too, if someone is running at 25mph with these and something breaks they could fuck themselves up pretty badly. Have you been willing to even make one pair by hand for any of the people coveting them? You're still in the Bay Area, there's gotta be at least one person who's coveted these in person who has Obscene Bay Area Money and can offer enough to own the next pair you build, maybe even pay a rush fee to cover your rent while you take a few weeks off work to build them faster.
And maybe send Casey Neistat a pair. He has a huge following on youtube and loves this kind of stuff. I'm sure he'd feature them in a video with a clickbait title and everything, lol
Ugh... I've been sick of that guy ever since he made that phony "i took mega-corp's ad dollars to go travel the world, lulz" video.
His latest model doesn't look too different from the Olympic blade runners. Maybe it should have been marketed as a prosthesis.
One note. Just because the patents are expiring, doesn't mean this can't still succeed. Inventors and scientists sometimes think that legal defensibility is what allows you to monetize an invention (it echoes some of the debates I've had with my father, a scientist).
Instead, well after a Chinese knockoff is in market, I could see a niche product succeed when seeding it with the right early adopter community, using just Instagram/YouTube, and having great branding.
A product category is not "done" when there's a manufacturer in the market.
Honestly brings tears to my eyes to see him triumph over naysayers.
OK, these are probably generalizations, but it seems to fit a pattern, no?
These use carbon fibre and if I recall correctly are proved to be a more efficient tool for running competitions than natural legs. There is debate if it should be allowed on regular competitions or if it counts as "doping".
A similar design adapted to able-bodied people might be a better solution than his metal structure design.
I think this is the downside of working solo and focusing solely on registering patents and getting rich. You miss how other people contributions could improve your product.
I think the best way to protect the knees, aside from soft snow and screes, is to lower the body when walking down, and absorb the shock using the thighs' muscles.
I can break, like, my entire face by falling wrong while walking at normal speeds, or twist my ankle or screw up my knee by stepping wrong while walking around the house.
I have to assume the failure cases associated with jumping stilts and magic running boots are just spectacularly awful, and I am way too middle-aged to deal with any of that.
Seems like even less of a viable approach for a mass-market product.
Actually, Seymour would probably have been better off selling his boots in this price range as toys for people with too much disposable income.
I’m guessing it was some kind of safety measure that he must have believed that he needed/wanted to achieve.
Honestly, he achieved his dream - Ie building the boot.
He failed in building a multi million dollar business - but that’s something most all of us will fail to do.
A lack of commercial success != failure.
But throughout the article, while I was delighted by the concept, fascinated by the execution and impressed by his dedication, I still couldn't think of where his market for these lies.
There is an art to writing DoD research grant proposals, just as there is (I presume) an art to pitching VC. So maybe a lack of understanding of how to go about securing these types of grants could explain him not getting one. But DARPA, in particular, goes way out of its way to take that out of the equation.
Which leads me to wonder whether there isn't more to this story.
It also sounds like it takes a tremendous amount of energy to use these. One guy was hoping to replace his bicycle with these but discovered that despite being in tremendous shape he couldn't handle more than 15 minutes.
Having been in combat situations, the safety factor and energy depletion factor would be a serious problem for military use, especially while wearing body armor and/or carrying a pack.
One interesting thing I see in common between the two is a great deal of effort spent quite early on retaining IP (patents, etc), vs successful companies who seem to rely more on execution velocity and first mover advantages until they’re much more mature.
Knowing what we do today about modern rotorcraft theory, it’s likely that the disc loading of the Moller prototypes was too high for the design to be practically efficient. It’s also likely that the Wankels didn’t perform anywhere near expectations for this reason... I don’t believe either of these to have insurmountable problems.
Rather, it seems likely that a disproportionate amount of effort was sunk into the software for the flight controller before software development practices had advanced enough to make it practical; if I recall correctly there was something like 10’s or 100’s of millions of lines of assembly code involved...
Just an idea that was ahead of its time, plagued by corporate missteps.
Now that he has a working prototype, he needs to pick a market segment that can use his boots and tailor them towards that market. My first guess it that the army would find them useful for soldiers that need to carry heavy backpacks over long distances or abid outdoor sportsmen that carry lots of items over a long terrain.
This is a product without a defined need. If I'm an investor I need to know that I'm going to get my money back so I need to know someone will buy it. If I'm a buyer I need to know what problem it will solve.
A product that exists without a reason to exist is useless. It does not matter how cool it is.
> ... his target customers: “Well-to-do adventure-seekers in their mid-30s who had tried every type of extreme sport and wanted something new.”
If that's his segment then I would at least have a website showing how to use the product. I would have some athletes using it too. The demand is not automatic you have to build people's desire for the product.
He should have consulted a marketing expert even before he had his first prototype ready.
this sounds like one of the chinese knock-off companies that just ignored the patents.
Once you remove that motivation , isn't it much harder to endure and to win against more motivated competitors ?
I confess I initially watched it because I was interested in Hugh's son, Mark Everett of the band The Eels.
But it ended up being a poignant look at the also-rans in science. The ideas that failed.
This is difficult on multiple levels. Most people won't make videos no matter what (and they paid for the product so they would feel even less pressure), and those homespun videos are almost certainly not going viral.
But in fact, as passionate as this guy has been for decades, it's arguably not such a novel idea. William S. Burroughs featured spring shoes (and spring knives, flails, etc) in some of his novels, starting in the late 70s.
And if you've ever read Archeology or other elder-targeted media, you'll know that spring shoes are a trope. Along with "exotic" knives, watches, cpoins, necklaces, and statues of the Archangel Michael.
Not sure if it's that the article was poorly written, but he didn't seem to have any early small wins to get him to the next big step.
All great inventors (except maybe for Dyson), seemed to have all these small wins that would help leverage them to the next chunk. If he needs investment, he should have started with something early on that would win investors trust so that eventually he could call on his network to tackle his crazy ideas.
When you see sprinters run, they are tilted forward and use the quads to propel - this is now used to put tension in the rubber springs to gain some height. While it increase your speed, it is essentially wasted energy because it's not forward motion. But that just an initial impression, I'd have to try them to comment more.
Wouldn't lawyers take the case on a commission basis? (I just learned it's called "contingency fee")
If I were him, I'd be wearing a helmet when I ran. I can't image what a 25 mph crash would feel like, from a couple of feet above standing height. Yikes!
But, 25mph is still very impressive.
These robots were scary Impressive! And run Scary fast. And Jump some mortal loops and flip-flops and stuff.
This was 25 years ago now. 25 years!
Therefore... those bionic Dogs from google or darpa , whoever, were supposed to be a normal thing 20 years ago, If someone back then let himself be taken by the Hype, and by 2020 everyone should be wearing Exo-Skeletons like the iron-man.