Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nike at Autodesk

Design Night: Faster. Stronger. Tech-ier @ Autodesk Gallery
June 6th 6-10pm

Matthew Nurse, Director of Nike Sports Research Lab 
I'm an athlete because according to Matthew Nurse, Director of Nike Sports Research Lab (NSRL) and Bill Bowerman, Co-Founder of Nike -if I have a body than I'm considered an athlete. I am fortunate though neither one of those people have seen my skills in action as I may single-handily put that notion in jeopardy. At Nike, everything starts and ends with the athlete and enabling them to perform at the highest level. They leverage sports science and technology to drive innovation. Nike's Mission: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.

You can't define yourself by the tools that you use though because tools evolve so they're only as good as the people who run it. Autodesk has the tools that enable Nike to turn some of their great ideas into a reality. I crashed Design Night, which is the first Thursday of every month when the Autodesk Gallery is transformed into a lively venue featuring design, music, mingling and cocktails. I went to learn about how Autodesk is playing a role in great design and engineering by what felt like a California Academy Nightlife  but more intimate and with an open bar. In collaboration with Autodesk, Nike has the ability to capture, analyze, visualize, and apply insights to the products that they build.

Caught CRASHING with 3D mapping
NSRL drives product innovation through knowledge & insight gained from scientific understanding of athletes and athletic performance within the environments they play in. They focus on four disciplinarians: Bio-mechanic, Physiology, Sensory Perception, and Systems Science. For example, in regards to sensory perception and skin wettedness their is no sensor in the body that responds to wet, instead their are thermal sensors and pressure sensors, and the combination of those two in your head tells you this is wet. If you understand which of those two makes you more comfortable in a wet clingy t-shirt you can start to manipulate those elements because it's hard to keep you dryer, but Nike can certainly make you more comfortable (which is part of the drivers of liking).

Imagine if you were running and going down concrete and you see a grassy patch, you know ahead of time that that grass is softer, and you will change mid-stride the way you move. Understanding how the body responds is the greatest challenge that Nike faces. If you think about the evolution of athletes, as you change the forces that you generate, you change how your body is, which changes the demands of the game and forces us to adapt. For example, a 30 inch vertical jump used to be great but now you can routinely see a 45 inch vertical. Jumping 60 inches may seem crazy in the future, but there's a basketball player out there today that has a 58 inch vertical. You only have to go back 20 years to think that guy was superman. We are evolving very quickly and the products and science that Nike makes have to meet those demands of the evolving athletes.
3D Motion Capture suit

At the Autodesk Gallery, I watched an athlete (I want to say she was a a water polo player from Berkley) perform in a full-body motion capture suit by Xsens. Xsens' technology is essentially a 3-D motion tracking that uses an ambulant, full-body, 3D human kinematic, camera-less measurement system. Nike can capture and quantify every movement in your body, every segment, every joint for angles, velocity, acceleration and timing -and after that Nike is only limited by their imagination.

There was also a high speed video camera. Compared to when you're seeing a digital movie which is 30 frames per a second, Nike can capture 30,000 frames a second. While many people took the violent option of punching each other on it I didn't think it was a good idea to punch my photographer, so this is a link of me innocently blowing bubbles in ultra-slow motion.

Perhaps the Force Plate

Imagine a really expansive scale and when you step on it it takes 10,000 measurements a second in three dimensions of the force you put into the ground -not just vertically, but forwards and backwards, and side to side. Even if you take something like landing which is a vertical force there's still a huge forwards and backwards component which affects how you respond, and the wear and tear on your joints. Nike finds where that force is under your foot and is able to objectively quantify athletes in motion to use that information to then build products to correct it.

Since 3D printing is so cool right now I had to mention Nike's Vapor Laser Talon, which brings 3-D printing to athletic shoes. The Vapor Lasor Talon was designed specifically for the 40-yard dash, and was tested and built using a 3-D printer. The plate part, in which where the cleats are embedded, is the first to be printed for this sport. Nike used a process called selective Laser Sintering, in which a powerful laser is shone on a plastic or metal powder, fusing it and allowing the surrounding material to be removed. Companies like Nike have been long-forced to treat all people's feet as the same, and now this opens a possibility of a new element of customization for your foot specifically with the goal of making athletes faster.

I came, I crashed, I rode off in a falcon wind tunnel.
For the love of new design technology that's changing the face of sports and transforming the way we play!

Question: If everybody is considered an athlete yet they say every athlete wants to be faster… I'm actually fine being the speed I'm currently at, so what would they say for that?  


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