You're probably aware that your athletic shoes go through some serious testing before they make their way onto your feet. But until you actually see it, you might not know just how high-tech the process is.

Adidas opened its Futurelab in 2010. Located at the company's headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany, the lab is where the sportswear giant studies the performance of its current products and ones in development, using sophisticated software, robotics, and other futuristic technology.

"It's the backbone for all of our innovation," says James Carnes, the company's vice president of brand strategy. "You'll see things in there that are nowhere else in the world."

The world's second-largest sports apparel company (after Nike) recently let Inc. check out the lab, where it tests footwear as well as clothing and sports equipment. 

In many cases, a pair of Adidas sneakers is the product of thousands of data points generated by the hardware and software. To optimize the design, the company has a human tester run over a force plate, which measures how much force different parts of the foot apply to it. The data then is used to program a robotics system to precisely replicate a person's running motion and mimic it repeatedly. That enables the system to track potential wear and tear to the shoe--and to the person who would be wearing it.

A separate motion capture system called Aramis uses high-speed cameras that record up to 500 frames per second. That video can be analyzed to learn how different parts of a piece of equipment or apparel respond to stressors. It can also track how the skin and muscles move, helping the company optimize for both performance and comfort.

Of course, sports are rarely played under the ideal environment of an indoor lab. In the Climate Chamber, Adidas can create wind, precipitation, and sweat to see how certain materials and product constructions--like a soccer ball, or the cleat that's kicking it--behave in real-world conditions. 

Take a look at the video above, which you can click and drag for a 360-degree view of the Futurelab, to see some of the technology in action. 

Published on: Feb 28, 2019