In February 2015, the NBA All-Star Weekend and Fashion Week were both taking place in New York CIty on the same weekend. SOLS was invited by Knicks All-Star and tech investor, Carmelo Anthony, to showcase our vision of the future of footwear at FAST A/W15, an event he was hosting to showcase wearable technology.
I acted as Project Lead, creating the design and over-seeing production of all materials for the showcase. The entire project was done over the course of 8 weeks.
I kicked off the ADAPTIV project by leading a SOLS company brainstorm. The goal was to talk about our current process and get crazy thinking about what it could evolve into in 15 years. As with any brainstorm, nothing was off-limits.
After the Brainstorm and my own deeper research into the fringes and frontiers of fashion, tech, sport, and wearable technology, I began to highlight areas for us to focus on, some of which were already SOLS core-competencies:
- 3D Printing
- Computer Vision
- Soft Robotics
- Instantaneous Adaptation
- Emedded Sensors
- Perfect Fit
3D Printing and Computer Vision
The "exoskeleton" or the outershell of the footwear became a huge opportunity to look at how SOLS' current product process could evolve over the next 15 years. With 3D printing (and in SOLS today) the product is a single part unibody design that uses different thicknesses and structures to adjust functionality across the changing landscape of the product. The unibody design allows for this to be executed without segmenting the foot, and instead treating it as one body part with many interconnected smaller parts.
The Exoskeleton of ADAPTIV is a direct evolution of the current day SOLS orthotic. Using measurements of the entire foot and ankle as inputs, the exterior boot is generated by an algorithmically driven 3D CAD model. The inputs will determine where the rigid structures end up around your Heel, where the gaps are needed on your Arch, and where the transitions happen into flexible areas around your forefoot and ankle. The design was very much driven by the anatomical and biomechanical needs of the foot.
In order to work with a multitude of sensors and to Instantly Adapt to your body and style, ADAPTIV's exoskeleton would be printed with an elastomeric non-conductive exterior that is filled with a conductive core. The boot essentially would be printed as a living wired net.
To instantly adapt to your style of the moment, ADPAPTIV has sensors along the spine that are reading the colors of the rest of your outfit. The sensors signal through the wire network to a series of LEDs that are backlighting the exoskeleton, and they change color to match your style. The images below show some of our prototyping while preparing the exhibit's display boots.
Soft Robotics and Instant Adaptability
We found that the emerging field of soft robotics is starting to be used in medical or military devices. In SOLS vision of the future of footwear, we envision it trickling into the consumer wearables market over the next 10 to 15 years.
In ADAPTIV, their is an "airbag" layer behind the exoskeleton that is instantly shifting to your every movement. The exoskeleton's wire network receives impulses to expand and constract, instantly moving the air around the shoe to provide extra cushion or rigidity immidiately as it is needed.
Below, early experimentation with molding clear silicone to create inflatable airbags.
As we moved forward, we partnered with Super Releaser to help create our living breathing exhibit display - a cross section model of ADAPTIV with exposed air bags that showed the inflation and deflation.
Above, more refined prototypes of the silicone airbags, with geometry to match between the foot and the exoskeleton.
Below, a sketch of the Air Bag Exhibition Display, with annotation on how to execute.
Perfect Fit and Sensors
The final piece to hold everything together was the soft good element. Since ADAPTIV is generated to fit the wearer's exact dimensions, we omitted a standard tongue and laces closure and instead used a zipper along the spine for a more precise fit.
Since the tonge area would connect directly to the exoskeleton, it is where we decided to house all of the electronic sensors that send signals through the boot that tell it when to tighten or loosen. This area became known as the "central nervous system" since it was sensing activity and sending impulses out in reaction.
Below, softgood construction trials on an early exoskeleton 3D print. The "central nervous system" along the front holds its shape while the zipper along the spine stretches to allow the foot to enter the boot.
Early construction drawings below of how I envisioned all of the different materials and technology coming together:
Video below showing the ADAPTIV exhibiti at the FAST A/W15 show on February 14, 2015 in New York City:
Carmelo Anthony checking out ADAPTIV at his show:
An image of me conducting an interview about ADAPTIV at the event:
Below, A video taken at the 3D Printing tradeshow at the Jacob Javitz center in April 2015. SOLS continues to use ADAPTIV as a marketing tool that shows how the company is on the cuting edge of tech, fashion, and sport.