EYE ON INNOVATION: New Balance Steps Up With 3D-Printed Customized Soles

We’ve blogged about sneaker technology in the past, highlighting Converse’s new Chuck II shoe.

Photo: New Balance

Now New Balance is stepping up with a new concept for a shoe that uses 3D-printed midsoles customized to an individual’s stride.

As Wired recently reported, most running shoes have midsoles that are resilient but are typically just a uniform piece of rubber foam. This foam doesn’t really account for the fact that every person’s foot impacts the ground differently, such as mid-strike runners or those who land on their heels first, etc. Researchers at New Balance are looking to make a midsole that’s “both resilient and smart.”

Photo: New Balance

The shoe company is working with Boston-based design studio Nervous System to create a 3D-printed midsole that can be customized based on an individual’s stride. Wired: “The goal is to extend customization beyond aesthetics, creating a shoe designed with biomechanical data that gives its wearer an optimized running experience.”

This 3D-printed footwear appears to be a trend. Companies such as Nike, Adidas and Jimmy Choo are increasingly exploring the applications of additive manufacturing in their design processes, creating everything from 3D-printed football cleats to 3D-printed haute couture shoes.

New Balance’s 3D-printed midsoles are “squishy,” lightweight and strong, and made of DuraForm Flex TPU, a proprietary elastomer.

Still early in the process, it is unclear if customized soles will actually improve the running experience, and help with elements such as reducing injuries, speeding recovery and enhancing overall endurance.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at new technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.

EYE ON INNOVATION: ‘Attack’ of the Drones to Prompt Regulations

The buzz on drones is getting louder.

More than 700,000 drones are expected to be sold nationwide in 2015, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Drones are a hot holiday gift item this year. Nearly 400 drone-related products and projects are currently listed in active crowdfunding campaigns at Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com.

Photo: Madpac.nl

Even the winner of the most recent Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award was a drone — the ultraportable Sprite, made by Ascent AeroSystems.

Hovering over all of this drone proliferation, inevitably, are potential regulations. In November, the New York Times reported that the Federal Aviation Administration released a list of recommendations for how to better monitor recreational use of the machines. Under the proposal, most drone owners would have to register their drones with the federal government, which would place the information in a national database, the first such requirements. New York Times: “The recommendations, from a task force created by the agency, would be the biggest step yet by the government to deal with the proliferation of recreational drones, which are usually used for harmless purposes but have also been tools for mischief and serious wrongdoing, and pose a risk to airborne jets.” Continue reading

EYE ON INNOVATION: Cool corkscrew arrives in time for holiday parties

File this under having the right tool for the job.

The striking Zig Zag Corkscrew uses the original steel-press molds from the 1920s in France, and is a new, nickel-plated steel replica of those original, iconic, expanding French corkscrews.

Antique Zig Zag-brand corkscrews, which were invented in France and patented in 1919, continue to be sought out in Parisian flea markets and elsewhere by collectors and wine connoisseurs.

This new, updated Zig Zag blends modern functionality and classic design. It features a folding cork remover and a bottle opener, too, and will make opening your holiday vino a pleasure. Price: $39.

EYE ON INNOVATION [Black Friday Edition]: Nifty Gifts for Techies

The season for gift giving has arrived, kicked off today by the frenzied shopping event Black Friday. With the holiday season in mind, consider these items for that techie on your list.

Makr Shakr. This robotic bar can make any cocktail you want and a whole lot more — shake up a martini, mix a mojito, thin-slice a lemon garnish, etc. It was a huge hit at the recent Milan Design Week, where furniture usually takes center stage. Makr Shakr is a collaboration between MIT Senseable City Lab and Carlo Ratti, an Italian architecture firm.

Ninja Coffee Bar. Fully programmable, this coffee maker can do it all: automatically brews java by various amounts, strengths, personal tastes; creates cappuccinos, lattes; includes a milk frother; and even features an iced-coffee function.


Small Drones. Drones are popular gifts this year. The BLADE Nano QX RTF Quadcopter is rated by Tomsguide.com as Best Drone for the Money — it sells for about $80. As Tom’s Guide muses, the drone won’t break the bank “if you happen to misjudge the top of a tree and get it stuck out of reach.” Speaking of drones, a recent Proto Labs Cool Idea! Award winner is the developer of another drone, the ultra-portable Sprite.

WooBots. These wooden transformers make “old-school toys look cool again,” says Popular Mechanics. The WooBots include an 18-wheeler cab named “Truck,” and a transforming Beetle, bus, jet fighter and warship.


Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at new technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.

EYE ON INNOVATION: GPS Bike Computer Helps Riders Track Data, Stay Connected

Whether traversing a wooded trail on a mountain bike, or navigating an urban landscape on a more conventional road or touring bike, more riders than ever are using on-board bike computers.

The problem? There are hundreds of these GPS-equipped systems to choose from. Plus, as one reviewer commented on Bicycling.com, most of the units on the market are too complicated, “with intimidating button sequences and excessive bulk; I sensed that they were built for finding the nearest gas station, not accompanying cyclists to the tops of legendary peaks.”

One bike computer that seems to be simplifying things — though it’s not cheap — is the Elemnt GPS Bike Computer from Wahoo Fitness. As Wahoo boasts on its website, “No more confusing menus!” Riders will relate to that.

Photo from DCrainmaker.com

The Elemnt uses Bluetooth 4.0 and ANT+ dual-band technology to pair up with all of a rider’s other cycling sensors. It tracks speed, cadence and power, feeding the data to a companion app. Riders can then program all of their ride goals and metrics and instantly share that data. Additionally, it has an easy-to-read display screen, so riders can keep an eye on the trail or street ahead, rather than fiddling with the computer.

Price: $330.

Eye on Innovation is a weekly look at new technology, products and scientific advancements that we’ve mined from crowdsourcing sites and other corners of the Internet.