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In a nutshell: Nike is testing a robot at its flagship retail store in London that is designed to clean and repair old sneakers. It's called B.I.L.L., which is short for Bot Initiated Longevity Lab. The system utilizes advanced robotics, water-based cleaning products and recycled polyester patches to refurbished worn kicks.
After loading a shoe into the machine, it creates a 3D model to pinpoint areas on the upper, the sidewalls and the outsole that need cleaning. Customers can also select patches to cover worn areas on the upper.
Once complete, a Nike store employee will add new liners and laces made from recycled materials to complete the refurbish. The robot takes about 45 minutes to process a pair of Air Force 1s, Nike said.
At present, the robot can only work on Air Force 1s, Air Jordan 1s, Space Hippie 01s, and Nike Dunks.
Noah Murphy-Reinhertz, sustainability lead at Nike NXT, said maintaining old products is deeply personal and that people will go to great lengths to care for their favorite shoes. "Repairing a product is a way to extend our memory with a product," Murphy-Reinhertz added.
B.I.L.L. will be available at Nike Town London through the month of September and is free to use. Nike said it complements existing services like Nike Refurbished and Nike Recycling and Donation, and hopes the pilot will provide valuable insights to help guide the future of sustainable services at the company.
Nike's latest innovation, at least at this stage, is little more than a flashy gimmick designed to lure customers into its store.
Devoted sneaker heads and even casual fashionistas likely already keep their prized possessions squeaky clean with soap, water and a bit of elbow grease, and I can not imagine too many folks are going to jump at the opportunity to plaster their kicks with gaudy patches. Kids might gravitate toward it for the theatrics but will adults be all that interested?
What's more, keeping customers in their current shoes kind of goes against Nike's business model of selling new products and keeping the money flowing.