List of 3 Technologies for Customizing Shoes (Part 3)
E.A.R.L. (Electro Adaptive Reactive Lacing)
Nike's E.A.R.L. is a self-lacing technology. It was initially developed as a nostalgia product mimicking the movie Back to the Future 2, which portrays a fictionalized future world where shoes tie themselves.
Nike brought E.A.R.L. to the consumer market with their HyperAdapt 1.0. The line is targeted at athletes and sportspeople, who often complain about their laces untying during training, however, it may also have potential to aid people with disabilities. The technology uses a sensor in the heel to detect when the foot is in the shoe, and then tightens the laces automatically. The shoe has buttons on either side so that the wearer can adjust the fit easily.
Given the HyperActive 1.0's price of $720, E.A.R.L. may have a limited market appeal, at least until the technology can be produced at a lower cost. Nike has not responded to requests for sales figures on the HyperActive 1.0, but Flight Club, a retailer, has reported that the shoes had sold "extremely well," and buyers are reselling the shoes on eBay for multiple times the retail price. E.A.R.L.'s value to Nike is more about marketing than sales figures, helping portray the brand as more innovative than its competitors.
Smart fabrics integrate clothing with technology. There are different classifications of smart fabric, depending on the technology involved, and the manner in which the technology is operated.
The initial offerings in this area have been largely driven by the success of the wearable health and fitness technologies. Products include t-shirts that can monitor heart rate, and sensors embedded into the insoles of shoes that can detect and record information on the wearer's running technique. Other smart fabrics require some human input, such as Google and Levi's Jacquard clothing range, which can detect input in the form of hand gestures. According to Transparency Market Research, the global smart fabrics market is expected to grow from the US$2.2B it was worth in 2017 to US$5.5B by 2022. So-called "passive" smart fabrics, requiring no human input, are forecast to hold the largest portion of this share at US$2.2B.
Augmented reality is another way that companies are integrating technology into shoes. For example, High Beam Shoes have produced a range of sneakers aimed at children that integrate with Pokemon Go. The shoes light up and play music when a Pokemon is nearby, which further immerses the wearer into the Pokemon Go game world. Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, Vans and other have also developed augmented reality shopping experiences, in which wearers can look into a mirror and see how different styles of shoes would look on them. Despite an extensive search, the sales figures or market estimates for augmented reality as adapted for footwear could not be determined, although, one estimate suggests the augmented reality market size overall will grow from its valuation of US$6.1B in 2016, to US$215B in 2021.
Self lacing technology, smart fabrics and augmented reality are three technologies that are changing the face of customizing shoes and apparel. These technologies are being used by some of the biggest names in apparel: Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, Vans and Levi's.