PUMA just unveiled Fit Intelligence (Fi), a new auto-lacing system “designed to automate, fine tune, and adjust performance fit for PUMA footwear,” according to the German sportswear brand.
Fit Intelligence is the sequel to PUMA’s AUTODISC sneaker, which debuted in November 2015, as a tech-driven update to PUMA’s patented Disc closure system. Since then, the brand has been in the lab perfecting the motorized Fit Intelligence auto-lacing system, which will eventually hit shelves in 2020.
While at the global launch event in Hong Kong, we sat down with Charles Johnson, PUMA’s Global Director of Innovation, who explained the new Fit Intelligence system in detail. Consider the bunny ear method a thing of the past, as users can now adjust the fit via a few easy methods.
“One is the swipe of the sensor,” located on the shoe’s forefoot “which activates the motor. And what that does is actuate a fiber system that goes throughout the upper. So it supports the foot in key issues.” You can also tweak the fit with an accompanying mobile app that is compatible with smartphones and Apple Watch.
While representing an impressive feat of engineering and design, Johnson assures us that the shoe remains highly versatile for daily life, “It’s a training shoe. It’s cushioned, stable, but also has a flexible insole. So you can use it for a lot of different activities.”
Applying the Fit Intelligence system to certain areas of performance footwear is still an obstacle that PUMA needs to overcome, however. “I think a football shoe, where you have lots of contact on the top of your foot, that’s not gonna be a realistic deployment of the technology. But really any sports where, you know, foot hold and lockdown is essential, we could see that being used for,” Johnson notes. In addition, PUMA is already creating prototypes that apply the Fit Intelligence system to apparel.
The Fit Intelligence system is only the latest step forward as far as PUMA’s experimentation with computerised sneakers go. In 1986, PUMA introduced the RS-Computer, which allowed the wearer to track his or her movement, log the data, and view training metrics.
“That’s been in our DNA, the RS-Computer shoe,” Johnson summarizes. “What’s new is introducing a motor to a shoe that’s gonna allow you to adapt the fit. And the PUMA AUTODISC was the first iteration of that concept, where we had a motor with the cable system throughout the upper. The motor, the battery, the brain, everything was up here. You know, there was some good things about it, but there were some things that we wanted to improve. Size of the system, the weight of the system, the way that you could charge etc. we needed to evolve. And so that brought us to the Fi platform.”
Rigging a shoe with complicated mechanisms like a motor and battery is obviously no easy task, and the bespoke components inside the first AUTODISC sneaker altogether cost around 3,000 EUR (approx. $3,442). This makes the compact size of the new Fit Intelligence sneaker even more impressive. Good things do indeed come in small packages.
The Fi training shoe will be available to consumers in 2020. Stay posted for more information as it arrives.
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- Interview: Edward Chiu