Now that Nike’s Back to the Future-inspired high tops exist, and the famous self-lacing tech has arrived on a consumer product, even footwear is beginning to get smarter. With a little crowdfunding help, Vixole will be making its own contribution to the growing lineup of forward-thinking kicks, with its Matrix shoe. The startup’s Indiegogo campaign launched today and aims to put customizable LED displays for static or motion graphics on everyone’s feet. It’s not just for eye candy, however: The design includes an array of sensors that can adjust the visuals according to movement, GPS coordinates or even react to your playlist.
Vixole made its first announcement about the Matrix a few months back, providing mockups of its intelligent footwear and even surfacing its prototype on occasion. I met up with Ali Ma and Haidong Dong, two of the founders, to check it out and learn a bit more about their plans. This is the second footwear project for Ali, who previously launched Essential Marks, sneakers designed with LEDs circling a transparent sole. Haidong joined to help on the business side and this led the duo to take things one step further for their follow-up project.
With the help of its team of designers and engineers, the company has laid out the plans for the Vixole Matrix smart LED high top. The final design will wrap a 22ppi LED display around the rear of the shoe’s upper within injection molded thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). This is a durable, flexible material, similar to what’s you’ll find on products like the Nike FuelBand SE.
Sensors including units to detect sound, light and bending, along with an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer will be installed inside a specially designed insole. There will also be haptic sensors on board, so if you wanted you could get vibrating notifications and prompts for turn-by-turn directions. This set of features could be combined with LED blinkers on each shoe — a useful option, say, if you were riding a bike. There will even be a step tracker, which seems like a no-brainer for smart footwear.
Other potential uses could add some flare to a night on the dance floor; actively react to your skateboard stunts; or even connect to third-party apps to provide motion capture data. This is one of the reasons why the Vixole team is making the software open source. There will be a mobile app to help control and customize the illumination tech on Vixole’s shoes including the ability to capture and convert photos into displayable graphics. You’ll also be able to access the Vixole marketplace to download new designs or share your own creations.
Right now the team is at the proof of concept stage and the Indiegogo campaign will help take the product from prototype to the final market version. With all this tech on board, the estimated retail price of $345 seems reasonable enough (they’re smarter than Yeezy’s, after all), but if you take advantage of the crowd-funding deals you could score a pair for as low as $225.