Design Futures | Nike’s Next Generation Footwear Meets Next-Gen Tech

Dell, Nike, Meta Vision and Ultrahaptics Vision for Future of Design

Nike has always had audacious ambitions to drive innovation, enhance the performance of athletes and propel the future of modern sport. At Dell EMC World recently, Nike’s Ken Black, Vice President of Digital Design Transformation, shared insights on how Nike is unleashing the limits of human potential and the future of design through creation and collaboration with next generation technology.


According to Black, Nike has one simple goal, “to inspire the world with what we create to help athletes do things that they’ve never thought possible.”

An example of Nike living up to their goal is Breaking2, Nike’s attempt to break the two-hour marathon barrier resulting in Eliud Kipchoge finishing with an astonishing time of 2:00:25, 2:32 faster than the current world record.

Black went on to state, “We love audacious goals of athletes. We love the audacity of the limits of human potential, so making shoes and performance apparel in that context is fantastic.”


When it comes to designing the future Nike is already ahead of the game. For perspective, Black noted, “Nike’s products and innovations for World Cup 2018 are done and dusted we are ready for that event and well down the road to the solutions for Tokyo Olympics 2020.”

Nike has designers and innovators who are looking five years out at the next World Cup in 2022, and even seven years out for the Olympics 2024.

Black also noted that “designing into that future, we need tools here, today and now, that enable designers to realize what’s in their mind to get there.”


Nike fuels some of the most powerful creators and innovation teams on the planet — there are almost 1,000 Nike designers with access to the best athletes, best data, performance information. With the best teams and best resources how can Nike transform the brilliant ideas from designers into innovative products and experiences for people faster, better, and more seamlessly?

When Nike designs next generation products and experiences there are three core areas in the creation and collaboration process:

  • Imagining — What is the idea in your head?
  • Forming — How do we get in a form that we can see it, so that we can all rally around and begin to build it?
  • Feeling — What is the tactile sensation?

As a physical products company, visualization and realization of the end product are crucial. Now with more experiential process through voice, augmented reality, haptics and beyond, teams can create closer to a physical product to test, learn and iterate on product concepts well before production.

Being able to co-create with athletes like Lebron and KD by working in 2d and seeing the work in 3d will change the game.


In effort to imagine, form and feel new ideas for next generation footwear faster, Nike explores next generation technology, most recently with The Dell Canvas, Meta 2 and Ultrahaptics.


The Dell Canvas — Described as, “The Workspace that breaks boundaries,” the Dell Canvas is a touchscreen that pairs with any Windows 10 laptop, desktop or all-in-one. A CES 2017 Innovation Awards honoree, it’s no surprise since the Canvas allows people to use their hands in the traditional pen and paper way with modern technology that recognizes touchpoint patterns for faster collaboration and quick “totem” controls accessing software menus without interruptions.


The Meta 2 is an Augmented Reality Development Kit consists of the Meta 2 Augmented Reality glasses and supporting software developer kit (SDK). The Meta 2’s glasses are “see-through” allowing people to always be oriented in their environment, content or holograms are overlaid to their physical surroundings (so no motion sickness like in virtual reality environments). Designers’ hands can be their best tools as the Meta 2 enables people to interact with hologram hands to create, touch, manipulate and share their designs.


Ultrahaptics’ technology manipulates ultrasound, from ultrasonic transducers that enable people to “feel” mid-air gestures through haptic feedback or interact and control virtual objects such as buttons or controllers. Ultrahaptics offers three varying products to help people create, evaluate, experiment and concept new products and experiences: Evaluation Program, TOUCH Development Kit and Academic Program. Touch-free connected interfaces that can be applied to endless products and experiences.


What will the future hold beyond the World Cup, 2024 Olympics and other audacious breaking barrier moments? Black closed by saying that Nike is “aggressively pursuing environments and embracing new technologies that help unleash the imagination of Nike’s creators, innovators and athletes.” For Nike it is not enough to adapt to the future — Nike is creating the future.


About the Author

Valerie Vacante is the Founder of Collabsco, a strategy and innovation firm based in Austin, Texas, and contributor to Clausette | Future of Fashion Magazine. Valerie is an entrepreneurial leader with 14 years of progressive experience in creating digital strategies, emerging products and experiences spanning startups and global brands such as AT&T, Mercedes-Benz and Nestlé among others. In between collaborating with cross-functional teams to drive what’s next in emerging tech, culture and design, she also serves as a mentor to Austin-based startups.

This post was featured on Clausette | Future of Fashion Magazine originally published at on May 17, 2017.

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