Contrary to popular belief, most women (and almost all men) do not enjoy shoe shopping. You see a pair of shoes you like on the display rack, but the store is out of your size. Or you do find the shoes in your size and buy them without trying them on—only to find out they don’t really fit. How about all those people who have two different-sized feet or high arches or flat feet? And most brands don’t even bother to manufacture shoes for people with unusually narrow or extremely wide feet.
This is where Reality Computing and Feetz come to the rescue.
Feetz is a technology company developing a proprietary ‘SizeMe’ platform for the mass customization of shoes. The company uses patent-protected algorithms and customized software to create 3D printable shoes based on virtual models of your feet. The process is straight from the Reality Computing playbook: capture, compute, and create.
Feetz technology uses just a few digital photographs of your feet combined with photogrammetry software to produce accurate models of your two feet. This is the ‘capture’ part.
The ‘compute’ part involves custom modeling to integrate these digital models of your feet to a digital model of a shoe style. The software automatically adjusts the parameters of the virtual shoe to fit your foot, and matches your needs for flexibility and support, as well as your choices for color and pattern options.
To ‘create’ the shoe, Feetz uses 3D printing processes, along with some manual final assembly tasks.
“Our technology is called SizeMe because a decade from now, no one will ask you for your shoe size. You’ll just say ‘size me’,” explains Feetz CEO & Founder Lucy Beard. For cost reasons, most shoes today are mass manufactured in Asia—a production process and supply chain that doesn’t accommodate cost-effective mass-customization. “By using our SizeMe technology and 3D printing, we can make affordable custom-sized shoes,” says Beard. “In addition, producing shoes with SizeMe technology uses a smaller carbon footprint (no shipping or material waste) and a ‘farm to table’ style of micro-manufacturing that generates local jobs.”
In December, Feetz will launch beta a program for the production of its first shoe styles: a sports-inspired ballet flat and a walking shoe. At first, the company plans on targeting people that currently wear orthotics, or struggle to find shoes that fit them. As the technology and production is fine-tuned, the company will be working on launching partnerships with retailers and casual footwear brands, and even installing SizeMe kiosks into selected shoe stores.
Capture: The process begins by using a Feetz app on your smartphone or tablet to capture measurements of your feet. The company has written its own software that can create a 3D model of your foot, accurate to within 1-2 millimeters, using only three photographs. You simply stand with one foot on an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of white paper (for scale and reference), take the pictures, and repeat for the other foot.
Compute: In less than 60 seconds, the program stitches together virtual 3D models of your feet that can see and spin around. The app allows you to customize certain aspects of the shoe style, as well as the shoe’s color and/or pattern. It also uses your input regarding height, weight, and lifestyle to modify the shoe’s biomechanic design features such as sole density.
Create: Once you’re done with measuring and designing, you pay for your shoes and Feetz takes it from there. The shoes are 3D printed, assembled, and shipped to you within 7 days.
Come to think of it, Feetz and Reality Computing may actually turn shoe shopping into something we all enjoy!