Athlete stats, fitness and performance levels measured by electronic sensors are due to become a real part of sports coverage in 2012 and Nike has made a pair of basketball boots that measure speed, jump height and force. How? By inserting Nike+ sensors in the soles of each boot. Sync with the free Nike Basketball iPhone app and you’ll see a pressure map of your feet. Move your toes and you can make the app screen light up like a heat map. It’s like an interactive x-ray of your feet and a giant leap beyond what Nike managed with early sports apps in 2006. This time around, the sole of these boots are electric from heel to toe.
Installing the Nike Basketball app is simple but there’s a surprise announcement – the boots need a firmware update. That’s a firmware update for a pair of shoes – suddenly, we feel like we’re in Back To The Future. The two removable Nike+ sensors connect to a custom USB lead and connect to your laptop for the update and charging. Placing both sensors back in the sole of each boot and pairing with an iPhone via Bluetooth is simple. They glow green and the app instantly recognises them.
The speed tracking of the sensors is more accurate than solus iPhone sports app that tracks your run via GPS but, naturally, it’s the ability to record your highest jump which is the standout feature. You can see the video below which explains the technology. We needed to charge the boots between two sessions of play but found the jump stats to be accurate and fast – the sensors actually record the data and can sync with app on the fly or sync data later. The app allows you to compete with friends and set goals via a Training app, which proved addictive – you can actually compete with pro scores too. The video snippets of NBA star Lebron James talking you through the app are useful but it’s the ability for a person to record footage of your game via the app that creates a breakthrough – the data can be live synced with the video, so you can see your biggest jump, with a verified real time statistic overlay sidebar and stick it on YouTube.
We used a Nike Fuel Band (£139.99) to track our calories burned during a game session. The Nike Fuel Band uses Bluetooth to sync with the Nike Fuel Band app but didn’t interfere with data being passed from the boots to the same iPhone. The Fuel Band bracelet show calories via an LED display and although it’s not essential to sync it with a PC or iPhone, it helps track performance and measures your steps so you can see how far you walked on each day of the month. You need to wear the Fuel Band during work and play to do that but it’s black and plain enough to look like a charity wristband or a slice of urban cool, depending on your personal style. Combine with the Nike+ Hyperdunk boots and there’s the Training app which covers three tiers of weekly workouts from the professionals too – infinitely superior to a personal trainer and more realistic too, starting with 15 minute sessions.
The technology on display is impressive and the boots themselves are NBA standard and feature in the Olympics. At £190, the Hyperdunk+ boots carry a £75 premium for the breakthrough features over a pair of standard Hyperdunks but we think it’s worth it. Part toy, part mind-blowing exhibitionist gadget for Facebook stat show-offs, we’re addicted and now play more basketball. Our gym subscription never managed that so for the money (and the sneaker science thrills) the price tag seems acceptable – if you like basketball, this is the technology that can seriously help your game.
UPDATE: Selfridges House of Innovation currently has a demo lounge featuring the latest connected Nike products including the Hyperdunk+ boots and the Nike Fuel Band.