Power Laces get serious as Nike lodges patent for Back to the Future II Air Kicks

August 30, 2010

I take my hats off to Blake Bevin for inventing these amazing power laces. 27 year old San Fransisco based inventor recently created a version of Nike “Air Kicks” as a self-interest project back in July and has developed into an auto-lacing system which is amazing! Thanks to Rob Faldon for putting me onto this… Hit the jump to read more.

A US inventor who built a pair of self-lacing shoes has now found herself in a race with Nike to get them to market. Blake Bevin, 27, from San Francisco, created a version of Nike “Air Kicks” as a self-interest project back in July. Based on Marty McFly’s auto-lacing shoes from Back to the Future II, they feature a motorized self-lacing system and the video of them in operation drew over a million views on YouTube. That and enough geek publicity and support to encourage Ms Bevin to improve on her futuristic footwear’s “laughable looks and simplistic function” and start thinking seriously about a saleable version.

“I was constantly getting messages how my shoe was in some foreign newspaper, or on Fox News, or some other place outside of the internet,” she told news.com.au.

“It was pretty thrilling, seeing something I made almost as a goof get that kind of recognition.”

Ms Bevin was surprised to find there was also a serious side to her tinkering.
After people with motor skill disabilities and their families noted the self-help benefits of her system, her “goof project” didn’t seem like such a throwaway idea.

Now, 21 years after Marty McFly first activated his Air Kicks, it seems the giant global brand behind the original concept doesn’t think so either. While Ms Bevin was working on version 2.0, news broke that Nike had applied for a patent on the technology late last year.

Tech sites released concept art and specifications for a “lighting system” and “automatic fastening system”.

Air Kicks, it seems, could finally soon be a commercial reality for Nike, and most would be forgiven for thinking that puts a significant hole in Ms Bevin’s plans.

“In the sense of market share, I don’t believe that two versions can coexist for very long,” she admits.

“In almost every case with competing products there’s always a clear winner. And a big company like Nike has the means to squash smaller competition, even if Nike had an inferior product.

“Brand recognition is a powerful force.

“Of course, that’s not to say second place wouldn’t be profitable…”

She’s plugging on undaunted, spurred on by the belief that a) Nike’s unlikely to enter the arena before her and b) she thinks she has a better product, as the Nike patent seems to be “actually for a footwear based lighting system and not for an auto-lacing mechanism”.

The Bevin 2.0 version takes the original concept’s bulky exterior motor and fits it into the heel.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but I believe my version will offer more efficiency, along with being more flexible in the type of shoe it can be adapted for,” she said.

Ms Bevin has set up an account at micro-capital site Kickstarter.com to convince investors that version 2.0 is worth a shot and given herself until October 11 to raise $25,000.

She said rather than being daunted by Nike’s moves to patent Air Kicks, it was encouraging to know she was working on a viable product.

“It proves the ‘big boys’ have been thinking about such a product as well,” she said.

“Plus, the mechanism showed in their patent, while similar to a Power Laces Version 2.0 prototype I just built, is completely different than the final version I have in mind for a marketable product.

“Realistically, I don’t see Nike entering the arena first, which might give the little guys a chance to get their own brand recognition – especially if you could undercut your bigger competition in cost.”

Words By Peter Farquhar for news.com.au

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