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Nike made a robot to clean and repair your sneakers

Input logo: MainLogo Input 9/13/2022 Andrea Carrillo
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Robots clean our floors, deliver our food, and even try on our bras before we do. Now, Nike is creating robots to do more mundane chores in an effort to extend the life of its footwear. A robot-augmented system recently launched by the Swoosh can clean and repair shoes in minutes, while also reducing waste in the process.

The Bot Initiated Longevity Lab, lovingly referred to as BILL, is Nike’s latest initiative to cut sneaker waste and ensure customers are getting maximum use out of their shoes. Does this mean sneakerheads will feel encouraged to wear their multi-hundred dollar sneakers more? Probably not. But for the average customer, giving a favorite pair of everyday Nikes a free, robot-grade refresh should be a welcome innovation.

BILL, still in its pilot phase, can work its magic on a number of Nike styles. A database of 3D sneaker renderings helps the bot follow the exact silhouette and target specific areas for repair and cleaning. Nike didn’t disclose if the system will solely focus on scuffs and general wear-and-tear or deeper issues such as fabric rips and dissolved glue.

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A bot we can stand behind — Nike’s ultimate goal is to improve sustainability through robotics, but the company still wants the recycling technology service to feel personal. After the exterior has been restored, Nike store employees will then swap out the sneaker liners with new ones made of recycled materials. The Swoosh is a leader in footwear sustainability; BILL joins existing sneaker, apparel, and packaging initiatives.

While there are plenty of home remedies that can turn you into a modern-day cobbler, Nike NXT sustainability lead Noah Murphy-Reinhertz said BILL will speed up the process while still preserving sentimentality. “The thing is, maintaining old product is deeply personal,” he said in a statement. “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.”

For now, BILL is limited to the Nike Town London store. Shoppers can use the service for free throughout September, and insights will help Nike determine the next steps for the robot and other tech. We’re hoping BILL makes it to the States because there’s nothing cute about a dirty Air Force 1.

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