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Nike envisions a wild future with Olympics in outer space, clothing made of spider silk, and footballs make of stardust

In a new book, Nike playfully envisions an Olympic-like competition in outer space.In a new book, Nike playfully envisions an Olympic-like competition in outer space.

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  • Nike recently published a fun and thought-provoking book about the company’s next 50 years.
  • The company playfully envisions athletic competitions in space and footballs made from stardust. 
  • The small 192-page book is mostly a fun, futuristic read about what Nike might be doing in 2073.

Nike is preparing for the day the Olympics get hosted in outer space. Sort of. 

In the new book “After all, there is No Finish Line,” the sportswear giant takes a step back from the daily business of sneaker drops, talking about the merits of direct sales, answering questions about the company’s recovery in China, and discussing bloated inventory levels to take a playful look 50 years down the road. 

The small 192-page book is mostly a fun, futuristic read about what Nike might be doing in 2073. While not a  roadmap of the next 50 years of Nike product releases, it’s a thought-provoking and revealing take on how the sportswear giant expects consumer behavior to change and how it’s getting ready. 

Nike did not return an email from Insider seeking an interview about the book. 

The book was edited by several Nike employees and includes contributions from some of Nike’s heaviest hitters, like Innovation President Thomas Clarke, Chief Design Officer John Hoke III, and Ron Faris, who previously ran the SNKRS app and who now oversees the company’s new Virtual Studio. Sam Grawe, who wrote the 2021 book Nike: Better is Temporary, is an editor and contributed essays. 

The book has the familiar Nike refrains about the “limitless potential of sport” and a splash of the self-congratulatory, such as a note about the company being “always at the forefront of culture,” but it largely doesn’t take itself too seriously, conceding the “pages ahead may be laughably inaccurate” in 50 years. 

Like any good thought exercise, the writers and editors didn’t put many guardrails on the brainstorm, veering into the sportswear possibilities of everything from invisibility to self-repairing tissue and underwater breathing. 

“Given the rate of technological change, certain science fiction could soon become science realities,” the company writes. 

Here are five of the book’s conversation-starting concepts.

The book's contributors include Nike heavyweights, such as Innovation President Thomas Clarke.The book’s contributors include Nike heavyweights, such as Innovation President Thomas Clarke.

Courtesy Nike

The Offworld Games

The Olympics occupy a lofty place in Nike culture. 

Nike cofounder Bill Bowerman, the legendary Oregon track coach, also coached the 1972 Olympic track team. In his 2006 biography of Bowerman, Kenny Moore quotes Bowerman, who served in World War II, saying of the Olympics, “This is our answer to war.” 

The reverence for the international athletic competition isn’t going away. But in the future, it might no longer take place on earth. 

In the book, the authors describe in a piece of short fiction an Olympic-like athletic competition called the “Offworld Games” where “planetary superstars” are “unshackled by gravity” and combine “skills from gymnastics, climbing, wrestling, and martial arts.”

The imagined event is hosted in Nike’s “flagship orbital facility.” 

Fittingly, the company also foresees a line of Nike spacewear, “worn by so many travelers embarking for the deep cold of Mars and beyond.” 

Lunar metals and footballs made from stardust

The galactic predictions don’t end there. 

Nike sees all sorts of cosmic possibilities, especially when it comes to lunar materials, including the possibility of a “football made from stardust, or a bat made from metal harvested from space.” 

On a more terrestrial level, Nike foresees clothing made from spider silk and the emergence of volcanic glass compounds. Coral reefs could grow materials. 

“Somewhere down the line, it’s not too outlandish to consider an entire garment or pair of shoes being grown instead of pieced together,” the authors write.

In the present, the company’s materials innovation is already accelerating. Nike’s business partners include Newlight Technologies, a California company that makes a carbon-negative substitute for plastic and leather. 

Nike's LeBron James Innovation Center features motion-capture cameras and force plates.Nike’s LeBron James Innovation Center features motion-capture cameras and force plates.

Courtesy Nike

A Shanghai deep-cold facility and an interactive running trail

Nike’s always been known for innovation, first at an R&D lab in Exeter, New Hampshire, and today in the massive LeBron James Innovation Center. The facilities historically have used technology like motion-capture devices and force plates to study how the body moves. 

Nike doesn’t see lab-based innovation slowing down. But it does see it spreading out. 

The book describes the possibility of satellite research facilities around the world, including a “Shanghai deep-cold facility” used to test “ultrathin insulating fabrics” and a “desert lab near Nairobi” with dozens of running trails that offer “nearly infinite climbing routes,” complete with “sensing technologies” wired into the landscape that could measure and adjust to a runner’s speed, blood pressure, and heartbeat. 

Nike could get into gamification, nudge theory, and MRIs of the brain

Since its earliest days, Nike has mostly paid attention to “below the neck” sports science, focusing on the body, not the mind. The next 50 years will be more holistic. 

“Nike’s business cards of the future may well include titles like perception explorer, insight architect, sports neuroscientist, AI linguist, motivational psychologist, sensor designer, and nutrient coach,” the authors write. 

The company could find itself exploring everything from the psychology of behavior modification to gamification and nudge theory. Nudge theory, or designing an environment to encourage a specific choice, is often  associated with more objectionable outcomes like casino designs that keep visitors gambling. 

Nike sees a future where it can be used to encourage healthier behaviors.

The result could be workouts “fine-tuned to our current physiological, metabolic, and hormonal state; a guided meditation or coaching session designed to help us meet short- or long-term goals; (and) a product whose colors change in response to our unique psychic needs.”

Democratizing sneaker access

Since cofounder Phil Knight sold his first pair of sneakers, Nike’s been a relatively simple business.

“You buy our product, we take your money,” the book’s authors write. But that basic “transactional relationship” is dissolving. 

“Younger audiences expect more from the brands they engage with,” Nike writes.

What does that mean for Nike’s business? 

The book is spare on details, but digital technologies like NFTs (virtual collectibles), immersive video games, and the metaverse could let consumers “participate more deeply” with Nike.

“Those within Nike view these developments as a means to democratize access, opportunity, and even value-creation and ownership,” the company writes. “Picture a marketplace for user-generated designs, avatars, or skins where the royalty doesn’t go to the biggest name, but to the unknown kid who had a flash of artistic inspiration.” 

 

Read the original article on Business Insider
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