Lauren Goode

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Nike’s New High-Tech Sneakers Will Tell You How Much Air You Got on That Dunk

Looks like the basketball players of tomorrow will boast that they’ve got data-tracking game.

A new Nike+ “pressure sensor” is coming to Nike basketball and training shoes. The sensors will track data about wearers’ movements and transmit it wirelessly to their iPhones. The enhanced basketball shoes are meant to track the movements of players during practice sessions and games, including (but not limited to) how high the wearers jump. The training shoes are meant for casual and competitive athletes involved in any intense fitness activity.

Nike has been adding sensors to its athletic gear since 2006, though some of the products send data to an iPod or accompanying fitness watch rather than to a smartphone. The company says the Nike+ community has grown to more than six million “digitally connected” athletes.

Last month, Nike introduced the Nike+ FuelBand, a lightweight rubber wristband meant to be worn all the time to track fitness levels, which are measured in a Nike-branded activity currency called NikeFuel.

With these new basketball and training shoes, Nike says, workout statistics can be shared with friends on social networks. They also offer a “showcase” mode, which allows wearers to superimpose their live data onto a video that can then be shared with friends. So now, when a heated debate arises about who jumped higher on the court, you can take it inside, to Facebook.

A couple of unanswered questions — which I’ll ask Nike in a short while, and update as needed — is whether the sensor uses Bluetooth or another kind of wireless technology to transmit the data, as well as how far the reach of the sensor is. Most casual basketball players I know wouldn’t want to carry their smartphones in their pockets while playing (and I’m imagining it’s the same case with pro players). So would the user have to head to the sidelines or locker room and be within a certain proximity of his or her phone to transmit the data? Or does the data sync automatically?

And I’m curious to hear more about how verticals are actually measured. For example, if one foot edges higher than another, is the ultimate measurement an average of the two verticals? Or is it from the foot that got higher?

The company’s first sensor-enabled basketball shoe will be the Nike Hyperdunk+, which will cost $250 and hit stores this June. The first training shoes that work on the Nike+ system will be the Lunar Hyper Workout+ for women and the Lunar TR 1+ for men.

Nike has said LeBron James will wear the Nike Hyperdunk+ shoes this summer at the London Olympics.

Update: Nike’s vice president of digital sport, Stefan Olander, offered some more details on how the new pressure sensor works.

It reads four key pressure points in the foot to track when the feet leave the ground, Olander said. That data is combined with accelerometer technology to measure gravity and overall movement.

While data transmission in the “old” Nike+ sensors and running sneakers is enabled through Nike’s proprietary radio protocol, the latest Nike+ sensors use a new kind of Bluetooth technology that is said to be faster — and saps less power from connected devices. The data is stored locally on the sensor, and users can (wirelessly) upload the data to their iPhones when they’re done with their basketball or training session.

Also, the new pressure sensors are put into both left and right sneakers — unlike earlier versions of Nike+ sensors, which slipped into just one shoe — to more accurately measure the wearer’s movements. Whether the user takes off from the left foot or right foot — for example, when shooting a layup or attempting to dunk — Nike knows the timing of the foot pressure; the company claims it has created an algorithm that is more than 96 percent accurate in measuring jumps.

I wasn’t at today’s press event, but here are some tweets from those who were, including, naturally, Nike:

Improve every time you step on the court or in the gym. Introducing Nike+ Basketball & Nike+ Training #innovate

Nike has just unveiled a Hyperdunk shoe with a pressure sensor that tracks every move & allows you to upload it.
darren rovell

#Nike is arguing that it will bring the power of its own lab to any athlete through technology. I like the idea of the connected athlete.
Jeff Jarvis

Nike+ will tell you how high you jumped when you okay bball!!! That’s unreal!!
Omid Ashtari

Here’s a promotional YouTube video featuring Mr. James himself, showing off the sneakers and how another player’s vertical data is transmitted to the iPhone:

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