What better opponent is there for you to race than the best version of yourself? Nike has unveiled the “Unlimited Stadium” the world’s first LED track creating avatars for runners based on their running tempo. Instead of chasing a time on your watch you can now chase a visual avatar, sure to push you past your limits.
Here’s how it works. Strap on your Nike’s, get hydrated and hit the track. As you run your first lap, the track records your time so don’t go too easy or hard on yourself. The small sensor that’s laced up to your shoes tracks your speed and sets your avatar’s pace. During your second lap a virtual avatar with your name on it will be running alongside you on the LED walls. The avatar responds to your tempo by growing larger the faster you run each lap. As you complete each lap, you’ll pass by a giant scoreboard showing all your running stats and comparing you to others. Whether you’re an avid runner or looking to have fun, the scoreboard will give you valuable insight into your pacing and how you’re stacking up against yourself.
More than a virtual motivator, this track also has smart pacing capabilities. Avatars can be set to certain tempos and even change throughout the run motivating you to push for the big finish. Roger Bannister, the first person to run a 4-minute mile in 1954, would have definitely enjoyed this kind of luxury training, not to mention his teammates that had to set the pace for him. Nike has taken this virtual pacer beyond the this specific track using a virtual line to set the pace for their “Breaking2” campaign. “Breaking2” was Nike’s attempt to break the 2 hour mark for a marathon. To give that perspective running a sub 3 hour marathon is out of reach for most runners. Nike did come up 25 seconds short of the record but it still shows the impact virtual technology is having in the fitness and sports world.
The track also offers several other cool features. From above it’s clear the track shape was very intentional. Instead of the classic loop it’s a 200 meter figure 8, shaped like a shoe. Not just any shoe, it’s strategically shaped like the bottom of Nike’s popular Lunarepic Flyknit. Also featured on this track is a hill to add extra challenge and give it a more dynamic feel than most outdoor tracks.
As you can imagine, everyone wants to try to this track, even those who begrudgingly describe running as “painful” or “senseless” find it fun to race themselves. Taking the focus off of running itself and gearing it to a virtual game makes it easy to forget that you’re running and drives you into a competitive gaming mode. The track does max out at 30 runners so you may need to wait your turn but it’s well worth the experience. The track unfortunately isn’t likely to be found in your backyard though. The track featured in the video is in Manila, Philippines. However this track is part of Nike’s latest shoe launch making it likely for this track to pop up elsewhere.
It’s exciting to see where Nike will take this technology in the future. After primarily focusing on running, arguably the world’s most popular sport, it’s hard to imagine Nike not exploring more virtual training in other sports realms. They’ve dipped into soccer creating a VR experience with Neymar Jr. and could easily expand to sports like basketball, football and swimming. Adults that no longer have the opportunity to participate in traditional team sports should be excited for the chance to get back in the game with virtual reality technology.