Twenty-seven years ago, the hit sequel to Back to the Future predicted the future, prophesying a Nike sneaker that could automatically lace itself. Well, the shoe giant has made it a reality. We may not travel by flying cars just yet, but Nike has brought us the future—just five months short of the movie’s fictional Oct. 21, 2015 timestamp—revolutionizing the shoe industry with the delivery of a sensor-activated self-lacing sneaker that, we have to add, looks even chicer than the one Marty McFly wore.
Coined E.A.R.L (a cute acronym for Electro-Adaptive Reactive Laces), the Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 trainer was introduced at the brand’s 2016 Innovation for Everybody event, along with the announcement of other launches, including the Nike+ app, anti-clog soccer cleats, the Air VaporMax (with the promise that it will feel like you’re ‘walking on air’), and the next generation of FlyKnits.
But back to E.A.R.L. How does it work exactly?
“When you step in, your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten,” explains Tiffany Beers, senior innovator of Nike, Inc., and the project’s technical lead. “Then there are two buttons on the side to tighten and loosen. You can adjust it until it’s perfect.”
Design-wise, Nike’s Vice President for Design and Special Projects Tinker Hatfield took elements from another futuristic movie—Disney-Pixar’s animated film WALL-E, drawing inspiration from the robots EVE and WALL-E, which can be seen through the blue LED light at the base of the shoe. The light and the sensor are both powered by a battery, which would need to be re-charged every two weeks.
Essentially, the sneaker’s adaptive lacing technology is an engineering feat, and the hope is that this is a step toward real-time fit customization.
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“It’s amazing to consider a shoe that senses what the body needs in real-time. That eliminates a multitude of distractions, including mental attrition, and thus truly benefits performance,” Hatfield says. “Wouldn’t it be great if a shoe, in the future, could sense when you needed to have it tighter or looser? That’s where we’re headed. In the future, product will come alive.”
The Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 will be available to Nike+ members beginning Holiday 2016 in three colors—black, gray, and white. To learn more about all the Nike launches, head to nike.com.