In 1927, Charles Brannock, the son of a local shoe business proprietor from Syracuse, N.Y., created the Brannock Device. The measurement tool made of steel with five scales is the most efficient method to find an exact shoe size.
All over the world, 60% of people wear the wrong size shoes. There is not only the difference between different types of shoes (high heels, leather booties). The size can vary from brand to brand within the same style of shoes (like Adidas sneakers to Nike sneakers) and even the silhouette shape within a specific brand.
For example, I’ve had Nike React Epic sneakers with Flyknit technology for women size 10. I have a pair of men’s Suede Nike Air Max 95s that are the size of a 9.5. All my Air Jordan 1s fit a size easily for men. 8.5; however, I do have the women’s version with an 11 and the Air Jordan 4s fit an 8. In contrast, my Nike Air Max 720s feel like they’re a bit small for a men’s 8.5. All of this happens in the same brand.
In the 92 years since its invention, the advent of the internet and various other technological advancements that have changed society, The Brannock device has not been challenged. Until now.
In the summer of 2012, Nike will introduce Nike Fit, a solution for foot scanning created to identify every person’s perfectly fitting. Conceptually speaking, Nike Fit is somewhere in between “why should we reinvent the wheel” and “we do not even need the wheel.”
Nike Fit uses a proprietary combination of computer vision machine learning, data science artificial intelligence, recommendations algorithms to help you find the best size. With an accuracy of just two millimetres across many data points, the measurements are taken into the machine-learning model, which takes every aspect of each Nike silhouette right down to the material utilized, the lacing systems and other crucial elements of the fitting. It is then coupled to AI capabilities to discover the individual’s preferences for fit and its relation to the general population.
Users can find their measurements using the feature for augmented reality in the Nike app, or you can visit stores participating in the program to take advantage of the technology. I recently had the chance to test both options.
In the Nike application, I used my phone camera to capture an empty area where the floor meets the wall for an object of reference by following the app’s direction to create that the plane is level. I stood on my back against the wall I took as my reference point and directed the camera towards my feet like I was attempting to snap a picture. After my feet were aligned with the guideline within The app, I hit the button, which looked as if I was snapping photos.
In just a few seconds, this procedure looks at the feet and records 13 data points. It is the most valuable among the 33 points Nike can collect. However, despite all the collected information, the users will only receive width and length measurements to the millimetre of each foot.
“Augmented reality offers a completely new type of experience that is appealing to many consumers and creates a variety of challenges for them”, claims Josh Moore, Nike’s vice director of user experience and design. “We’ve conducted several research and developing new features for our SNKRS application over the past couple of years, where we’ve gained a lot of knowledge on the best ways to implement the technology of augmented reality effectively. Particularly, we’ve realized that we must guide our users on the journey according to their own pace to make sure they comprehend the information they are experiencing.”
“We’re talking about smartphones with cameras that can measure your feet.” Moore continues. “It’s an entirely different kind of user experience in which you’re using your phone, the device’s camera and the 3D space around you, and your body. There’s not a standard UX design to describe this.”
The shopping experience at the store is different in many ways. Therefore, it was not enough to possess the best technology, and it also needed to decrease the amount of friction that occurs during the purchase process. The goal is to cut down the duration employees have to spend reinventing the wheel and taking sizes from the stock area to ensure that customer interaction is more efficient and efficient.
At the Retail Lab on Nike’s campus, I was seated on a mat as a Nike sales associate measured my feet using the hand-held iTouch device. By taking the measurements (my left foot measures one millimetre larger than my left, and my left foot is 1 millimetre larger over my right), the salesperson can offer a range of sizes to me that includes the best fitting would fall within any of the Nike catalogues. Then, when they search for the shoes I’m interested in, the app can provide the most suitable size for my measurements and the shoe. If they have it, the app will show that size. If there’s any doubt, they’ll show your preferred size test, too.
If you use the app to determine the perfect fit and purchase it or walk to the store, staff and customers can keep track of the size of clothing purchased and any other personal preferences about the fit.
“Before the shoe is released on the market, it’s already a part of the technology. But since the solution incorporates AI and machine learning, the accuracy it has from the beginning is astounding and will only get more accurate,” says Michael Martin, the vice president for Nike direct products development, growth and innovating.
With more information, Nike will be able to improve the fit preferences of an individual continuously. It will also learn the general importance of the population around the particular model, providing insights into how to design better-fitting footwear.
For just over twelve months, Nike Fit was being evaluated in three locations -three located in Seattle, Dallas and Pasadena, Calif. — just six months following the time Nike bought Israeli startup Inverter, which’s sole purpose was to develop scanners that could scan the body to allow better fitting and customized.
“Fundamentally in the present, Nike is a technology company. It’s a tech company which builds on its historic capabilities in shoes, storytelling, and inspiration, and is capable of using these combined in order to tackle problems nobody else is able to tackle,” says Martin. “We consider this to be our most significant solution to this point.”
Although it is primarily a footwear product right this moment, the technology developed specifically for Nike Fit can revolutionize the way that people shop in many ways. For example, women could use technology to figure out the proper size of bra. It may also make the purchase of jeans easier. Since individualism and inclusion have become tools for marketing, custom-fitting seems like the natural next step; however, there’s no simple solution to date.
Nike Fit will debut at select retailers across the U.S. and within the Nike app beginning in July 2019. Europe to be announced later in the summer.
Nike has always held an important place alongside Apple and Apple when branding at the top of the line and storytelling are debated. However, with the launch of Nike Fit, Nike does it again.