The future of shoes—will it include foot scans, game engines, and ‘Tesla-like’ factories? | Technology News

Trainers are big business.

helper celebrity collaborationsocial media, and unique special edition They’ve probably never been more coveted fashion items than they are today.

I’ll buy an odd pair of fresh shoes, usually online, and look at the size roughly. I just assumed they would fit, and if they didn’t I could break them – which meant limping around with painful blisters for weeks.

But all this may soon become a distant and painful memory. Asher Clark, scion of the Clarks shoe dynasty, has grand plans for the “future of footwear,” and in order to research them I had to take physical measurements of my feet.

Forget tape measures and those weird shoe store gadgets, Clarke had me step on a set of futuristic-looking scales at the back of his Vivobarefoot store in central London, complete with a monitor that showed the soles of my feet in real time.

From where I put all my weight (too much in the heel, not enough in the toe), to all the measurements from “Instep Girth” to “Arch Height”, it’s a far cry from “looks like seven inches”. -give me half”.

Tom's foot scan
Looks like I’m putting too much weight on my heels

Before long, the scale-like machine was converting a scan of my foot into a 3D model and sending it to my phone, ready to form the basis of a custom pair of shoes.

That’s how we all hope to get our new sneakers someday, Clark said.

“Ten thousand years ago, humans used local materials to make shoes,” he said.

“Now, we have no choice but to do the same.”

Asher and brother Galahad, the seventh generation of the Clark family, a 187-year-old shoe dynasty, launched Vivobarefoot in 2012 with the goal of creating shoes that would feel as close to barefoot as possible.

In terms of weight and thickness, they are almost like espadrilles. If you’re used to walking on sidewalks in regular sneakers, it will take time to get used to them. But Clarks unapologetically believe that they fit our feet better, keeping them closer to the ground and in a wider, more natural position.

The next step is to make them better for the planet – which is where my video game feet come in.

Tom's Fairy Tale 3D
Mom, look, my feet have stepped into the virtual universe!

custom made

“We are effectively using modern technology to create shoes that were produced thousands of years ago,” Clark said.

“Everyone’s feet are different, so we can only do our best to fit your feet in the perfect shoe.

“The footwear industry is a long, labor-intensive industry. It takes a long time, it’s inefficient and slow because you’re ordering inventory. As a business, you’re making a huge bet — ‘Here’s a pair that fits. Shoes, are people going to want it?” — long before you send them to the store.

“We’re trying to move to an efficient digital model that’s made locally, by individuals.”

the Vivobiome shoes have the same plimsoll-like weight and feel as the company's standard sneakers
the Vivobiome shoes have the same plimsoll-like weight and feel as the company’s standard sneakers

The first step for “Vivobiome” customers is to scan their feet at home using a smartphone app. It will use the game engine Unreal to create new shoes in 3D, allowing them to customize and even try them on virtually.

If they choose to order, the shoes will be 3D printed from local sustainable materials. Clark says it takes less than a month from scanning your feet to wearing them in the right size shoe.

It’s an ambitious idea, first presented to attendees COP26 Climate Summit In Glasgow, the project seeks to disrupt an industry that shows no signs of slowing down.

The company debuted the concept at COP26 in 2021
The company debuted the concept at COP26 in 2021

Earn the favor of “sneaker fans”

Including big brands such as Nike, Adidas, Converse and Vans, the global sneaker market was worth more than $70bn (£54bn) last year and is expected to exceed $100bn (£78bn) by 2026.

Given the seemingly overwhelming demand, whether it’s replacing old All Stars or snapping up those “limited edition” Stranger Things Vans, it’s no surprise that 20 billion pairs of shoes (many of them sneakers) are produced each year.

Perhaps even more surprising, 90 percent of these end up in landfills.

Clark unapologetically believes the planet can’t handle any more suffering, and his company’s ambitious Vivobiome program should be fully up and running by the middle of next year.

Powering it will be a “Tesla-like speed factory” in which – like Elon MuskThe Electric Vehicle Company – The entire shoemaking process is under one roof. The first program will take place in Ireland in 2024, with further programs to follow in Germany and the US.

FILE PHOTO: A panoramic view of the Tesla Gigafactory in Austin, Texas, U.S., February 28, 2023.REUTERS/Go Nakamura/File Photo
Tesla factory cited as inspiration for Vivobarefoot’s proposed shoe factory

price capture

Vivobarefoot’s goal of helping the planet can only go so far if the shoes are affordable — and you can certainly pick up a few pairs of the sneakers for what the company thinks they will cost.

“The cost of doing things differently is high,” admits Clark, who is targeting a sale price of £260.

At the same time, the company launched a “pioneering program” to implement the plan. Successful applicants will receive three pairs and will be asked for feedback.

Foot scans will start next month and roll out between August and February.

Word-of-mouth could be crucial to Vivobiome’s quick start, as there’s no sign that Michael Jordan will be waiting in the wings to propel the brand to greatness on his own.

“A company like Nike has built an emotional legacy through great athletes and cool products,” Clark said.

“But I doubt that’s in the past. We’re looking to the next phase.”

You can’t doubt its ambitions — but for now, Vivobiome’s success is up in the air.

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