Jun 10, 2016 | By Alec

Tech events are usually the best place to learn about tomorrow’s gadgets, and Lenovo’s Tech World 2016 was no exception. Held in Silicon Valley yesterday, this year’s edition again featured countless innovative and sometimes eccentric gadgets that the Chinese laptop giants are currently working on. Among others, they showcased the Project Tango consumer phablet, the Lenovo PHAB2 Pro and numerous upcoming smartphones. But the undisputed highlight of the show was a pair of 3D printed smart sneakers, packed with sensors and LEDs, that can also be used as mobile game controllers.

The shoes themselves are powered by Intel electronics, and it was therefore only fitting that Lenovo’s CEO Yuanqing Yang presented the first pair to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. But as Lenovo watchers will doubtlessly tell you, this isn’t the first pair of Lenovo shoes. At last year’s Tech World, the Chinese innovators also gave a glimpse of a pair of shoes that were equipped with sensors that determined and displayed the mood of the wearer.

No one knows if those shoes will ever see the light of day, and perhaps they have grown into this new pair of game controller sneakers. Unfortunately, we don’t know all the details about these new 3D printed shoes either. But Lenovo did reveal that they have been developed in collaboration with outsole maker Vibram, with whom they partnered more than a year ago. They also feature an Intel Curie wearable chip, which is expected to become commonplace in wearables in the near future.

So what is known about these shoes? The pair presented at the Tech World event are just a proof-of-concept, but these are already set up to preform most of your standard fitness tracker functions, such as counting steps and calories burned (no heart monitor included yet). As you can see, they look like a perfectly normal pair of sneakers, except for one cool feature: the sole is lined with LEDs to light up and take control of the dance floor. The shoes’ batteries can also be charged up by placing the sneakers in a foot-sized charging panel.

While it’s not yet known how Lenovo envisions gamers to use these shoes, they can obviously be used with runner-style mobile games. Stepping back and forward could also be a cool option for movement functions in VR games. Of course, it’s also easy to imagine that these shoes can be used for a type of Dance Dance Revolution game. While you can wonder if it’s practical, the shoes are certainly cool and might become a lot more useful than a series of movement trackers worn on the wrist and ankles.

More details about the shoes are scarce, except for the fact that at least the insoles are 3D printed and customizable for a comfortable fit. Lenovo further implied that other parts of the shoes were also 3D printed, but didn’t specify anything. After all, the pair wasn’t exactly the highlight of the show (unlike the Project Tango phablet) and served more like a kind of teaser of things to come. And in that respect, they are certainly very intriguing. Futurists are always talking about 3D printed wearables that track body functions and health, and this is one of the first instances where we see those concepts reaching the world of footwear. The full presentation at Lenovo Tech World 2016 can be seen here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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