ShiftWear sneakers kick futuristic footwear up a notch with animated E Ink displays

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ShiftWear sneakers are designed with flexible E ink displays that can change images and designs via mobile app(Credit: ShiftWear)

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Fashion trends come and go, but a new shoe concept is intended to keep you up to date with the latest style, or let you coordinate your footwear with any outfit, without requiring an Imelda Marcos-sized shoe collection. The ShiftWear sneakers are designed with flexible E Ink color displays that can be customized with images or animations directly from a smartphone or tablet.

Many probably think of Marty McFly's self-lacing Mag high-top sneakers from Back to the Future II when they think of futuristic footwear, but recent developments in flexible electronics may just change all of that. While the ShiftWear sneakers may inconvenience you with lace-tying, their integrated, flexible panels are meant to offer an open canvas so that your feet can match attire, mood or season. To Just power the sneakers on and select a design from the app.

Each pair of ShiftWear sneakers features always-on E Ink displays, similar to those found in e-readers. The built-in batteries are designed to last up to 30 days, depending on the type of visuals set. Static images will consume little-to-no power, while animated graphics would be expected to drain batteries much faster, especially with increased complexity or frequency. But the team creating these kicks plans to incorporate wireless charging capabilities, as well as "Walk-N-Charge" technology that lets the shoes charge up with every step.

While there is no mention of the communication method (yet), the ShiftWear sneakers are designed to pair with a mobile device running the companion app (iOS, Android, Windows), which will let users browse, download, and program designs for the shoes. Art can be created for personal use or offered up to the marketplace for others to purchase. It's also worth noting that the displays aren't front-lit, so images and animations will have limited visibility in low-light conditions.

For those concerned about wear and tear, the ShiftWear sneakers will be waterproof and machine washable. Although there are no plans for the soles to be replaceable, they will be coated with Kevlar fiber in order to last longer.

The ShiftWear sneakers make for a highly ambitious project, but it isn't completely beyond the realms of possibility. We've seen similar concepts with the Tago Arc bracelet, Polyera Wove Band touchscreen wristband, and even E Ink-equipped heels of Volvorii's Timeless smart shoes, which are currently available for preorder despite the crowdfunding campaign falling short of its goal.

ShiftWear sneakers are currently funding on Indiegogo, having raised 389 percent of its US$25,000 goal in 10 days, with another 20 days left to go. The shoes will be available in low, medium, or high top styles in a choice of color, with minimum pledges starting at $150 (excluding shipping).

The funds being raised for ShiftWear are to finish off the prototype before a planned move into mass production. The minimum pledge for a pair of shoes is US$150, but in order to create the full-featured shoes, some pretty hefty stretch goals must be met first. And then, of course, all of the technology has to integrate and manufacture as intended. So if everything goes according to plan, backers may expect shipments of ShiftWear sneakers to start sometime around mid 2016.

The team paints an ambitious picture of the ShiftWear shoes in the video below.

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