Back in April, about two weeks before Nike held their Innovation Summit for the Olympics; I stumbled across this post on PatentlyApple. Now I am not the best at reading patents so I put my imagination to work on what would eventually be revealed as the new Nike+ System that came to market on Friday.
At the time I was really inspired by space navigation and in particular the space suit. There are very few pieces of garments that are as engineered around specific functions than the space suit. As I was researching and looking into the fabrics behind the suit I stumbled across what is being developed as the next generation space suit, the BioSuit. The suit is being cobbled together in Boston’s famed university, MIT; by Dava Newman with the goal of fitting our astronauts as they one day go to Mars.
The space suit provides astronauts with air pressure, without air pressure your body would essentially “expand” itself to death because your blood would boil and cause your body to lose its shape. So the current suit is equipped with a system that provides constant air pressure to the astronauts but is extremely stiff and hard to use. So as Dava began developing a suit that became form fitting by applying the pressure directly to skin. The key innovation in the suit is using “smart wires” that read your bodies diagnostics and report back to the control system what your body is encountering during the mission.
The idea of smart wires really got me thinking, I knew in some way, shape or form they could be applied to footwear. Then I came across the previously mentioned patent and I started breaking down ideally what smart wires would provide for footwear.
In personal life I was delving back into running at that time and I was really focusing on transitioning my stride from a heel striker to a forefoot striker. This is no easy task. Along with the extra muscle development, it takes a lot of mental dedication to constantly run on your forefeet. For those of you aren’t familiar with forefoot running it is a more efficient stride that puts less pressure across your body. Imagine the extremely large current space suit that is stiff and only allows you to leap because it does not flex and bend as you walk; that is heel striking. Now imagine the future BioSuit that becomes a part of your body and rids away all of the inefficacy that came along with the massive current suit; this is forefoot striking.
As I began breaking down ideas on how to teach a runner to forefoot strike with a shoe, I referenced back to that patent. The patent calls out “a sensor authenticated to a garment transfers information, either wirelessly or wired, to an external data processing device.” I instantly thought of a garment that transitions multiple colors. What if you could use color to train a runner? The current Nike+ system is fantastic at tracking body diagnostics but to read the bulk of the information you have to stop your activity to take it all in. I wanted the information to be live, if you heel strike; I want you to instantly know it. So I began looking at other smart fabrics, in particular fabrics that light up and I found a company by the name of Lunagram that creates an LED based fabric that transmits colored light throughout the material.
My idea is to take the Lunagram fabric and weave it with smart wires that track your every movement and interact with the Nike+ sensors that are already reading your heel, midfoot and forefoot pressure and provide the runner with color changing material that tells them where they are striking. If they are transitioning from heel to midfoot, or heel to forefoot, they will know with every stride if they are achieving their goal or not. All with color!