Adidas has teamed up with French coder Didier Brun to build sneakers that allow dancers to make music by moving their feet.The project was designed to promote the release of a new sneaker collection, Mega, in France. Adidas wanted a discreet, wireless system that didn’t need any cables and could work within a 20- to 23-foot range from the speakers.
To create the system, called “the Megalizer,” Brun used two force sensors for each shoe — one in the heel and one in the toe — along with a wireless transmitter (Xbee) in each shoe to capture the pressure applied to the sensors. A USB dongle containing the XBee receiver chip connected to the computer received the signals from the Xbee emitter chips.
Brun developed two separate programs to operate the musical shoes — one to process the receivers’ inputs and an Adobe AIR application that interprets the signals, and chooses and plays the sounds. The system let the wearers control the sounds (volume, sensitivity of the shoe and the sound effect) that play when heels and toes are tapped on the ground, thanks to a simple interface (which is called “Minimal Components” and was created by Keith Peters).
One of the main challenges was how to analyze the signals from the different sensors. The aim was to assess when the heel or toe was hit, but the problem is that when a dancer stands or moves there can be balance shifts from one sensor to another without much movement (Imagine shifting your weight from your toes toward your heels while standing still). Brun solved this by creating an algorithm that evaluated only steep shifts in pressure over a short space of time.
Once the shoes were up and dancing, they were given to French hip-hop dancers Les Twins, who partnered with YakFilms, Bboy Lamine and Bboy Mounir to create a film where they make music using the Megalizer. You can see them in action in the video above.
Brun says on his site: “I did face loads of technical and hardware problems during the production and tests. Generating live music requires very low latency, and creating a shoe-wearable wireless system was a real challenge. The dancers that operated on the video clip did train a lot to succeed in synchronizing to play the actual song.”
Written by: Olivia Solon