Nike on Tuesday unveiled a speed system for its track and field athletes who will compete at August's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. While innovation in shoes and apparel were expected, the brand gave a preview of three significant advances in technology that aren't typically part of a uniform unveil.
The first is adhesive tape with silicon-based spikes called AeroBlades that runners will be instructed to wear on various parts of their bodies, depending on event, to help cut wind resistance or aerodynamic drag. The distance between the AeroBlades is also different, depending on what part of the body they are placed. Nike arrived at the shape of the blades by using a 3-D printer to build prototypes and testing hundreds of different shapes in a wind tunnel.
"We were tasked to combat the enemy of fast and deliver on the athlete's desire to look fast, feel fast and be fast," said Martin Lotti, Nike's vice president and creative director for categories and concepts.
The second innovation are new sunglasses called the Nike Wing that are also meant to cut through the wind, ensuring they a performance enhancer and not a hindrance. In order to do that, Nike used a single piece of glass without hinges -- which typically let air through. Lotti said the lenses only let red light through, which provides a calming effect to the runner. Company officials said the sunglasses weigh 4 grams less than traditional eyewear.
The third innovation is a breathable, adhesive race bib called the AeroSwift Bib, with a peel back that can be stuck directly onto the uniform.
"We spent all this time developing aerodynamic elements to a uniform, and then we would pin our bibs on with safety pins that were invented in 1849," Lotti said. "It made no sense."
Lotti said Nike tested every condition possible in Rio to make sure that the bibs would not come off in any situation, including extreme heat and pouring rain.
Lotti said the unbranded AeroBlades will be available even to track athletes who don't have a contract with Nike.
All three innovations were approved by the International Olympic Committee.