If you’ve ever bought a pair of new, unlaced sneakers you know what it’s like to lace them yourself. It requires carefully wriggling the plastic-cased end of the lace up and through the tiny holes in the shoe’s upper from the inside. Sometimes there are two layers to navigate: the cushioned textile interior and maybe a hard plastic overlay used to tighten the shoe around your foot when you tie it up.
Of the approximately 120 steps involved in manufacturing an Adidas sneaker, that seemingly simple task is among those robots have not yet been able to master, at least not on an industrial scale, according to Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted. “The biggest challenge the shoe industry has is how do you create a robot that puts the lace into the shoe,” he said. “I’m not kidding. That’s a complete manual process today. There is no technology for that.”
Image courtesy of Quartz.