You have to decide whether to wear your stylish new sneakers out and expose them to deterioration and the elements, or whether to preserve them perfectly in tact inside the security of your home. However, shoes are supposed to be used, and the majority of us will eventually have to accept the reality that a pair is a little too worn to continue using. Unless a Nike repair robot is around, that is.
The international sports gear company unveiled B.I.L.L., or the Bot Initiated Longevity Lab, last week. B.I.L.L. is a “robot-augmented” system powered by Kuka, the industrial robot company behind innovative products like the bartending bot developed by the University of Naples and the finger-breaking chess bot developed by Moscow. B.I.L.L. is able to repair and update a variety of Nike’s most popular shoe models using recycled polyester patches, water-based cleaning agents, and movements modeled after traditional shoe mending.
A Nike employee (or “store athlete”) loads the shoe into the robot to start the restoration process. The method continues by building a 3D digital representation of the shoe while highlighting damaged or dirty regions. The owner of the shoe can choose which patches they’d like to use to replace the damaged material if the upper (or “upper”) has to be repaired. After cleaning the shoe’s upper, sidewalls, and outsole, the robot moves on to putting patches where they are required. After that, store athletes can hand put new recycled-material laces and liners.
Each pair of the process requires roughly 45 minutes. Currently, B.I.L.L. can clean and fix Air Force 1, Air Jordan 1, Nike Dunk, and Space Hippie 01 sneakers—expensive and frequently collectable shoes whose owners are most likely to use B.I.L.L.’s longevity-protecting services. B.I.L.L. will be unveiled by Nike at their four-floor store in the UK, Nike Town London, where it will be offered free of charge.
Nike’s most recent foray towards using greener manufacturing techniques is B.I.L.L. The brand’s Refurbished line, as well as its recycling and donating program, came before B.I.L.L. All three are a part of Nike’s Move to Zero initiative, which seeks to eliminate all waste and carbon emissions by an unspecified future date. This is a commendable but unspecific objective, despite the company’s evident unwillingness to address other contentious supply chain issues.