Google, Adidas Partner For Shoes That Talk [Slideshow]

Google and Apple aren’t the only ones with wearable tech. And Nike isn’t the only company with smart shoes that connect with your social network. Adidas’ new Google-powered shoe has an accelerometer, gyro, and pressure sensor embedded in the sole. And it talks.

When it comes to wearable computing, we mostly think of the wrist and face: Google, with its futuristic Glass eyewear, and Apple, with its supposed iWatch. But today at SXSW, Google showed off computing in a new location: on a pair of Adidas shoes.


These advanced Adidas high-kicks come with more than laces, aglets, and three stripes: Google turned them into an actual walking-and-talking shoe. The idea, as developer Leif Percifield says, was to see if “an inanimate object can have a personality of its own.” So his team strapped a a speaker to the tongue of the shoe that gives feedback and motivation as you move throughout your day.

The shoe, which comes packed with an accelerometer, gyro, and pressure sensor embedded in the sole, has 250 phrases that it spits out at its owner. “We developed a shoe that could talk and tell you things–that could pick up enough information about your exercise, whether you’re walking, running, moving fast or slow,” says Percifield. “From there, we developed the personality, and then added the phrases and connection. Not only does it have a personality and it actually talks to you, but it interacts with your social networks.”

Indeed, a Bluetooth connection keeps you wired to an app that can share your progress throughout the day. “It has your own social network feed so all of your friends can see how well you treat your shoes–and what your shoe says about you,” Percifield beams.

Don’t move enough? The shoe will yell at you. “I’m growing weeds here,” the shoe shouts. Move more? It might give you praise or suggestions to “play some basketball” or “go for a run.”

The product is not meant for the market, unfortunately. It’s just a fun experiment Google put together with the help of Adidas, ad agency 72andSunny, and interactive startup YesYesNo, where Percifield works. Percifield says the shoe we saw–displayed at Google’s “playground” at SXSW–“is not using nearly as many of the capabilities of the implementation,” meaning more fun features could be coming down the road.


And while we might be inclined to compare this to other quantified-self tools in the space, from Nike or Adidas, Percifield says the shoe has a life of its own.

“It doesn’t do any data collection, so it’s not like a Nike FuelBand,” he says. “We’re doing real-time, right-in-your-face feedback.”

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.