With the Rio Olympics looming, big brands like Nike, Adidas, Under Armour to name a few, are not being shy about putting their best tech foot forward. They are scaling technology to deliver greater performance and innovation. Recently, Nike hit the headlines with their Nike Zoom Superfly Flyknit track spike that they had designed and created for sprinter Allyson Felix using rapid 3D prototyping. We love that they did not stop there, they also came up with a cooling hood prototype for decathlete Ashton Eaton and a Nike football Rebento duffle bag that was made with a 3D-printed base.
Then there is Adidas. They are all about using the latest technology advancements in body scanners to create custom form fitted suits that would help athletes be the best they can be. On this, director of future at Adidas, Deborah Yeomans admitted that besides their contribution to this year’s Olympic’s in Rio, their engineers are already at work on designs that will be available 10 years from now.
We also have to mention Swiss cycling specialist Assos. As the official supplier for the US cycling team, ASSOS clothing has been predicted to most likely give athletes a powerful advantage whilst competing in Rio. Such a perk does bring to mind the question of whether such tech advanced clothing could be the apparel equivalent of doping. Well, Adam Clement, senior creative director for team sports at Under Armour explained, “We make sure we stay inside those rules, but we will get to the very edge of them if we can. Our goal is to innovate in a way that ultimately makes the Olympic rules change. We’ll adjust, but we’ll feel proud of that accomplishment.”
When it comes to innovation’s role in sports, one needs to first realize that technology is not the fairy godmother of athletes waving its innovative magic wand and turning them into ‘the Avengers’. A great example is Under Armour’s high-tech suit for speed skating. There was a lot of high hope for what their design could do for the US team, but following their poor performance, some of the blame was laid at the feet of Under Armour, but the thing is technology is a work in progress and is anything but perfect. Instead, it gives brands like Under Armour the opportunity to learn from what went wrong and create an even stronger product. Now this year, Under Armour has designed uniforms for the Canadian rugby and the Swiss and Dutch beach volleyball teams. Using NASA spacesuit technology, their smart sports clothing will reduce body temperature with the help of crystal-pattern sheets that will absorb heat from the athlete’s body.
Then there is the running shoe. A collaboration between running specialist Brooks and Linden gave birth to Hyperion shoes. The light road-running shoes were engineered for maximum efficiency. Believing that they are light years ahead of the competition, Linden shared that when it comes to their products, “There’s no wasted energy. It’s going right back into you. It feels fast.” With their Hyperion shoes already available for consumers to purchase, there has been some added value given to the Olympian pairs. They brag extra laser perforations that will assist with ventilation during Rio’s heat.
Accelerating towards the future, fashion tech designers like Pauline van Dongen, who recently worked with Skyn, are taking on the challenge to study the behavior of materials, so they can push and manipulate the boundaries. The collaboration between Pauline van Dongen and Skyn gave life to the long jump suit. Designed with the objective to show expressive motion during the jump, they integrated a geometric structure in the polyisoprene and created an upward lift that would help the athlete to stay in the air a little longer. By combining functionality and performance, the concept brags the ability to be worn like a second skin. Still considered an experimental and speculative project, the concept piece will not be developed into a marketable viable product, as of yet.