This Backpack Looks Like It's Magically Floating, Showing Us What's Possible With Innovative Design

"The pack gives you a newfound sense of freedom ... "

As a biology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Lawrence Rome has spent the last 30 years studying muscle mechanics and energetics, becoming an expert in muscle function and biomechanics,. However, it's his specialization in fish muscle and locomotion that ultimately led the founder of Lightning Packs to create the HoverGlide "floating" backpack — a backpack gaining viral attention for the way it appears to magically float. 

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"[Sixteen] years ago, I was in contact with the Office of Naval Research, as they wanted to build a submersible which swam like a fish," Dr. Rome told A Plus. "One day, in November 2002, they said Special Forces Operators in Afghanistan were carrying around 80-pound packs with an additional 20 pounds of batteries. They asked if there was a way to [collect] energy from their movement and convert it to electricity so they didn't have to carry so many batteries. Although I'd never worked on humans or terrestrial locomotion, I teach it. So, in that phone call, I came up with the idea of getting it from the movement of the pack." 

Over the next few years, Dr. Rome developed the electricity-generating version of the Suspended-Load Technology (SLT) backpack, which he eventually evolved into the HoverGlide. 

HoverGlide accomplishes its floating effect by having two frames with an elastic cable between them. One frame contains the hip-belt and harness, which attaches to users like a normal backpack. The bag, which carries the load, is attached to the second frame. The second frame is attached to the first frame by a long elastic coupling.  Therefore, as you walk, the frame attached to you moves up and down, while the elastic cord gets stretched and shortens in such a way that the frame with the bag attached stays at a constant height.

"As you walk or run, your torso moves up and down with each step. This means you have to decelerate and reaccelerate the load in your pack every time your foot hits the ground. The peak vertical force exerted by the backpack during running is 3X the weight of your backpack. So for a 50-pound. load, that makes it 150 pound.," Dr. Rome explained. "Our packs keep the load at a constant height — it no longer needs to decelerate and reaccelerate. Hence, we reduce this extra accelerative force by 82-86 percent, making it more comfortable and less injurious to carry a load."

Dr. Rome also notes that HoverGlide takes the advantages of rolling luggage one step further by completely eliminating the need to lift your load at any given time.

Dr. Rome predicts that HoverGlide could become an important training tool. When training for a strenuous profession, it's important to build up your strength. However, many people get hurt during training, thereby ruining their chance to build up their strength — especially those in the military. The pack will permit people to develop their strength without injuring themselves.

Eventually, Dr. Rome hopes first responders will also adopt HoverGlide technology, as it will help them run up and down stairs easily, while still enabling them to carry the equipment they need to save live.

Lightning Packs recently launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise the money necessary to manufacture the various packs Dr. Rome and his team have designed. While the campaign reached its $75,000 goal in only 3.5 hours, Dr. Rome explains that the company needs to raise additional funds in order to keep manufacturing the packs in a cost effective manner. At the moment, Lightning Packs expects to deliver the products by July 2019. Ultimately, Dr. Rome hopes that Lightning Packs will be able to make packs light enough for student use to reduce or eliminate the medical problems that often accompany heavy textbook loads.

Dr. Rome notes that, while most people long to "lighten the load," this mantra shouldn't be taken literally. Instead, they should focus on reducing the forces that make said load feel so heavy in the first place. That's where HoverGlide comes in.

"These packs do two things which seem opposed," he said. "The technology adds about 2 lbs. to the weight of the pack, but the contents in the pack exert much less force on you when you walk or run. It is the only device that I can think of which increases the weight but reduces the dynamic forces. Also, the pack gives you a newfound sense of freedom — you can run around without the pain and the risk of injury you have in a normal pack."

"When you walk or run with the pack, you don't feel movement. You just feel a constant downward force, as if you are standing still," he added. "When you run, you can do so with an almost normal gait — no bending the knees. What you'll really feel is when you take this floating away. You can lock the pack so it behaves like a normal pack, and it's no longer fun! Instead of running with a normal gait, you immediately start running with bent knees, like Groucho Marx."

With HoverGlide, even the "weight of the world" doesn't stand a chance.

Cover image via Lightning Packs

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