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Adidas Embraces Augmented Reality with Shoes, Marketing

First there were Rebook Pumps. Then LA Lights, Heelys, Z-Coils and Shapeups. Now you can add more bullet point to the long list of shoe gimmicks: augmented reality.

Adidas’ Originals Augmented Reality shoes deliver on the premise of augmented reality – virtual objects superimposed onto real life – with a simple marker sewn into the tongue. After picking up one of the five Originals varieties available in an AR flavor – Superstar, Stan Smith, Forum, Nizza and Samba – owners can log onto the Adidas Neighborhood to play games online with their shoes.

Yes, play games online with their shoes. Adidas’ tutorial does its best to make it seem less ridiculous, but we’re literally talking about holding a shoe in front of a laptop and zapping on-screen enemies with it. The square AR marker in the tongue allows Adidas’ Flash-based app to superimpose a virtual world on top of the shoe that moves in real time as you move the shoe. Right now, you can play a Star-Wars-type game, but Adidas plans to unveil two additional titles by the end of the summer.

Adidas has also embraced augmented reality in its marketing. To drive folks into its retail stores, a new campaign in Asia has folks who spot its ad in newspapers take a picture of an AR marker with their phones, then head in to a brick-and-mortar shop. By holding their phones in front of a virtual mirror – which is really a camera, computer and display – they can “try on” a series of virtual t-shirts without so much as reaching for a rack.

After seeing how janky the “virtual t-shirts” look in implementation, we’re still filing both AR uses under novelties, but it’s not hard to see the real uses that could be buried underneath at the technology improves. Imagine trying on a “test shirt” patterned in a special augmented reality design at home, then being able to superimpose the look of hundreds of different t-shirts over it with photorealistic results. It’s not hard to see how online retailers would be quick to turn any bedroom with a webcam into a private home changing room where you can try on their wares instantly. As for zapping storm troopers with a soccer shoe… even our imaginations have a tough time pondering how that one morphs into something practical.

You can pick up AR-enabled Originals shoes at Champs Sports and Eastbay.com, where the different models retail for between $65 and $95. The Adidas Neighborhood also makes it possible to print a demo marker and play a demo game online before springing for the real kicks.

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