Severin Meyer


With the fast-paced advancements in launch capabilities and space architecture, one can envision the introduction of large-scale structures within Earth's orbit and beyond. Due to the increase in internal volume, a new look needs to be taken at future tethering systems for astronauts. This calls for a modern take on the classic electromagnetic shoe concept used for ages in science fiction. In recent decades, progress and cost reductions in key technologies like sensors, electromagnets, and embedded systems have made a compact and affordable design possible.

The main goal of the project is to create a shoe that’s fully controlled by the user's gait through an innovative algorithm, enabling effortless walking in zero gravity. To achieve this, the shoe is equipped with a sophisticated sensor network that measures the dynamics of the human foot. Laser rangers and an IMU track position and motion, while custom piezoresistive textile sensors monitor the contact pressure profile inside the shoe to gather data on foot movements. Additionally, an external bending sensor tracks changes in the shape of the sole. All this data is processed by a neural network running on a microcontroller, which estimates the current position in the gait cycle, allowing the system to activate the electromagnets at the right times for natural walking.

The system was successfully tested in cooperation with the MIT Space Exploration Initiative during the Media Lab's annual zero-gravity flight in May 2024. The data collected was essential for training the onboard neural network and identifying areas for future improvement.