Tuesday, August 14th, 2007
Slide and Glide: Inventing a Better Stroller Wheel
Colin Campbell thinks he has invented a better baby stroller wheel. He might be right.
The father of three has replaced a standard four-wheel stroller configuration with two arc-shaped wheel assemblies. Each assembly sports 9 to 12 inline skate (roller blade) wheels mounted on a curved piece of plywood that measures 30 inches along the curve.
The Big Idea is that the stroller traverses street curbs and even stairs with ease (see embedded video below). While you and I would be forced to turn our strollers backward and slowly lurch them up stairs one nasty bump at a time, his gliding stroller seems to traverse the obstacle with minimal fuss.
As he said in a phone interview, “Think of a boat on the ocean coming up against a wave. The first wheel hits an obstacle and raises the next wheel behind it, and so forth. It creates a rocking motion to push you over the wave.”
How much of a rocking motion is the $64 million question, but I’ll bet it could be smoother than traditional strollers. A curved set of wheels should take bumps, say a pothole, in small bites, while one or two large wheels fall in one fell swoop.
He also says his invention makes a stroller very easy to turn, even if the load is over 200lbs. One of his videos features two older children “surfing” as they hang onto the side of the stroller.
Part of the invention’s value is a self-selecting center of gravity, similar to a rocking chair. “If you’re leaning all the way forward, you can’t get the stroller to tip,” he said. “The parent has a lot of control over that wheel; the baby is the center of gravity. The baby sits over the pivot point where the stroller will turn, so it doesn’t matter how much weight you’re turning.”
In fair criticism, the wheels might need some sort of shock absorbers and his braking system needs work (it requires flipping a tab on four sides of the stroller). I’d also like to see how the stroller performs in wet and muddy environments; a splash guard might be called for. But this is a prototype, before stroller engineers bring it to market.
Campbell got the idea for his gliding stroller while remodeling his kitchen. On his frequent trips to Home Depot he noticed that dump trucks have a raised wheel. Naturally, his brain told him to build a workshop in his garage and fill it with hundreds of inline skate wheels.
Contrary to what you might think, or at least I thought, Campbell isn’t a geek or a gear-head. A former high school jock with geek envy, his job title is assistant director. In southern California lingo that means he manages the filming of television commercials. He began building his wheel system three years ago, around the time he learned his third child was on the way.
So, when can we buy a gliding stroller? Campbell is trying to pitch the idea to stroller manufacturers now, but having a tough time cracking the wall companies have built to keep out the sea of people who think they have the world’s great invention on their hands. His introduction letter is a bit meager and the videos below are his only online presentation. In other words, good at inventing, not good at marketing.
If you know somebody who knows somebody, shoot me an e-mail and let’s give this dad his chance to be heard.
I told Campbell he needs to give this invention a name, even if it will be nameless when integrated commercially into strollers. He has tossed around SteadiBaby, RollerStroller and RollerBaby. Have any ideas?
- Millipede Wheels?
- Inline Baby Glider?
- Baby Bow and Go?
- Stroller Coaster? (a play on roller coaster)
This invention bucks a trend, radically changing the look and feel of a stroller. That’s not necessarily a good thing. The big question is whether this gliding stroller performs 110 percent better when test driven by parents. I’m certainly itching to take one for a spin.
Campbell is looking for your feedbackâ€”good, bad, questions.