In Back to the Future II, Marty McFly steps out of a DeLorean into 2015. Doc Brown immediately hands him new clothes, and Marty jams his feet into ultramodern Nike MAG shoes – the laces tighten automatically and the Nike logo lights up.
It’s a memorable scene and the first in the movie to show us what kind of technology could be possible in the future. Re-watching this film today, I have lots of “does that exist now?” or “can we do that?” moments.
In the 22 years since Back to the Future II was made product development has undergone a lot of changes. Many consumer goods today typically have electronic, mechanical and software elements. The combination of all three (mechatronics) allows us to get closer to the innovation we see in the movie.
The scene with the automatic laces was shot using holes in the ground and a prop man underneath the street pulling the laces on cue. But within the next few years we could be seeing the real thing on shelves everywhere.
“These projects stretch you and push you to do things you normally wouldn’t do,” says Tinker Hatfield, Nike VP Design & Innovation. “But the sensory part, where a shoe is triggered to wake up… I’d say it’s going to be about 2015 when we have a shoe that does what that shoe did.”
Nike recently auctioned off 1510 pairs of the MAG shoes on eBay and all proceeds were donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. The eBay sale netted $4.7 million, which was matched by Google Inc. founder Sergey Brin and his wife Anne Wojcicki.
If you missed the opportunity to get a pair, don’t worry. Tinker Hatfield eludes (again) to a release of a self-lacing version in 2015 in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times.