The World's First Smart Shoe - - A Gadget Running Shoe

I have been a runner for nearly 40 years so, of course, with my passion for computers I found this merger of computers and running shoes fascinating. Adidas, the 83-year-old German sporting-goods maker later this year will introduce running shoes that are getting smart enough to sense their environment electronically, calculate how best to perform in it, and then instantly alter their physical properties to adapt to that environment. In short, the designers say, shoes that can do whatever is needed to deliver improved athletic performance or just a better experience in the ancient poetry of feet striking the earth. Sleek and lightweight despite its battery-powered sensor, microprocessor and electric motor, the shoe, named 1, is expected to be in stores by December and will cost $250.

Adidas executives say the shoe is no gadget-dependent gimmick. Instead, its designers say it represents a leap forward in wearable technology. Each second, a sensor in the heel can take up to 20,000 readings and the embedded electronic brain can make 10,000 calculations, directing a tiny electric motor to change the shoe. The goal is to make the shoe adjust to changing conditions and the runner's particular style while in use. The shoes will have push-button controls, light-emitting diodes to display settings and an instruction manual on a CD-ROM that will advise wearers on, among other things, how to change the battery after every 100 hours of use.

Prior to developing the shoe, Addidas was surprised to learn that no one had ever precisely measured cushioning compression while a shoe was in use. To do that, he and Mr. Oleson inserted a sensor about the size of a sparrow's eye into the top of the heel of a standard Adidas running shoe, and a magnet smaller than a dime in the bottom of the heel, creating a magnetic field that the sensor could measure. As the heel was compressed, the sensor, known as a Hall sensor, measured the corresponding changes in the magnetic field strength to a tenth of a millimeter, 1,000 times a second. To retrieve the data, the group also had to design and build a data logger to gather and store the information and then transfer it to a computer for analysis. After much trial and error, the group had a sensor and data logger small and powerful enough to be snapped onto the tongue of a sneaker.

USA Today May 7, 2004

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