SELF-lacing sneakers have captivated the minds of people since the product was first conceived in the 1989 film Back to the Future Part II.
Then last December, 27 years after the original concept appeared on film, Nike made the dream a reality by releasing its $950 self-lacing HyperAdapt 1.0 sneakers to consumers.
After receiving initial positive feedback about the world’s first self-lacing shoes, Nike is now striving to improve the technology to make the experience even better.
Nike’s senior innovator Tiffany Beers was recruited to mastermind the technology by none other than legendary shoe designer Tinker Hatfield — the man behind world famous sneakers like the Air Max 90 and the 20th anniversary Air Jordan XX.
After Mr Hatfield made it clear the project had no budget or deadline constraints, Ms Beers embarked on a journey that would consume 13 years of her life.
“At the time they wanted a replica of the shoes from Back to the Future and I knew Nike had built a pair that was sitting in an archive, so I set about studying it,” she told news.com.au
“Back to the Future defined the experience we had to create because everyone would be expecting the shoe to behave the same way as it did in the film.”
During the early stages of the development process, Ms Beers was operating with a great deal of secrecy – working with only a handful of trusted colleagues.
“For years it was a top secret project that saw me building prototypes with various people,” she said.
“Once we started making progress and grew closer to scaling the technology for production, the team began to grow and in the end there was easily 100 folks who had worked on the shoe.”
Ms Beers said she doesn’t know the exact cost involved in making the self-lacing sneakers, but admits it took a lot of time and effort into making a product that was wearable.
“Our first prototype was not even close at all,” she laughed.
“It probably took five to 10 prototypes before it was wearable enough for real performance and then and 10 to 15 prototypes where we were at the point to test it on real athletes before releasing it to consumers.”
Although it wasn’t the first product she had even gotten to market, Ms Beers admits designing a commercially viable self-lacing sneaker is the most significant achievement of her career.
The technology works by using a sensor, battery, motor and cable system located in each of the shoes.
When someone put their foot into the sneaker, they step on a sensor that tells the shoe to autolace based on an algorithmic pressure equation.
“The final design automatically laces when people stand in the shoe and goes to a comfort setting that is based on a tonne of feet and personal preferences,” she said.
While developing self-lacing sneakers was a undeniably great achievement, Ms Beers said there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“What people never really considered when thinking about the shoe was how to get out of the shoe once they put it on and this is an area we really need to work on for consumers,” she said.
Ms Beers also explained why Australia didn’t get the chance to purchase the initial release of the HyperAdapt 1.0 sneakers and why we will likely have to wait a little longer before we get the technology.
“When you have electronics in products there are various certifications and processes you have to go through, so one day I hope you guys will see them down here,” she said.
Ms Beers said while she would love to keep working on perfecting her “shoe baby” she brought to the market, her role has shifted to develop the self-lacing sneakers we will see two, three or five years down the track.
“We have taken the first step in the future of adaptive performance and we are only going to get better,” she said.
Online Source: The News