Shiftwear Are $150 ePaper Sneakers That Will Never Ship

Engadget and a lot of other sites are reporting on a new Indiegogo crowd-funding project that is going to prove to be a pipe dream.

Shiftwear promises to combine the ever-changing possibilities of an epaper screen with footwear for a fashion experience that can't be matched:

If you're the sort to buy multiple pairs of sneakers just to make sure your footwear is always fashionable, you might soon have a way to save a lot of money. David Coelho is crowdfunding ShiftWear, or sneakers that have color e-paper displays in their sides. You only need a mobile app to change your look at a moment's notice (there are promises of a shoe design store), and you can even use animations if you're feeling ostentatious. The shoes are machine-washable, and the e-paper consumes virtually no power if you're using static imagery -- there's even talk of walk-to-charge tech that would save you from ever having to plug in or swap batteries.

Coelho is definitely ambitious: while ShiftWear has a $25,000 baseline goal, it'll take $250,000 or more to comfortably make these wearables a reality. However, it won't cost you too much to help out and get some shoes in return. Pledging $150 will set aside a pair of ShiftWear L1s (the low-cut model), and it only costs more if you're looking for some higher-cut options.

To be clear, there's no prototype, and there's not even a proof of concept design (I asked). Coelho is asking for money to build the original prototype, and he's trying to raise funds by selling advance units which are backed only by digital promises (and thus not even worth the paper they're not printed on).

But as you can see in the GIF up above, this project does have some impressive Photoshop skills backing it up.

Nevertheless, I remain unconvinced that these shoes are even possible, much less that they will ship. I have seen no evidence that the folks behind this project have any clue what they should be doing next.

There are many glaring problems with this campaign, but the most obvious is that Shiftwear was stumped by basic questions about the screen tech they plan to use, and what substrate it will be mounted on. I asked them on Twitter, and Shiftwear didn't have an answer.

In contrast, when I spoke to the Hemingwrite/Freewrite developers at CES 2015, they had a prototype in hand and were ready to answer tricky questions about their screen tech choices. They knew about alternate screen sizes (8" screen, for example) and could explain why they didn't opt for E-ink's 3-color Spectra screen tech (it isn't available to the open market). (And Freewrite has still missed its ship date, even with a working prototype.)

... getting back to Shiftwear

Sure, flexible E-ink screens have been released (think Plastic Logic and Polymer Vision), and way back in 2011 E-ink even showed a proof of concept for a screen printed on Tyvek (a durable fabric used for shipping envelopes and other rugged uses).

But that was a lab demo with a low resolution screen:

That design never left the lab, so far as I know, but now Shiftwear is claiming they can produce a functional product with a high resolution screen, and mount it on a shoe.

And to make matters even more improbable, they claim they can produce that prototype for $25,000, and take it to mass production for only $250,000.

Oh, and the developers are also planning to open Shiftwear stores across the US. Contribute $25 and you can get your name inscribed on the wall of the flagship store.

Folks, I don't have any experience in product development but I don't think I need technical expertise to know when someone is pissing on my leg and telling me it's raining.

This is a pipe dream, and I agree with the many commenters on Engadget who think this project will never ship in its current form.

That said, if you want to back the project as a gamble, you can find it over at Indiegogo. I backed it for a dollar, and if I could afford it I would go back and get a pair of the shoes (just so I could promise to eat them if they ship on schedule).

Alas, I can't afford to make that promise.

About Nate Hoffelder (11598 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

36 Comments on Shiftwear Are $150 ePaper Sneakers That Will Never Ship

  1. Speaking from experience a typical Chinese electronic manufacturing company wants a minimum of 10,000 units but might go as low as 1,000 units at $1,000 per unit (production price not retail)to build a completed production ready design. So the design for the wireless, portable, tracking device that I worked on cost $3-4 million to develop and about $1 million to build the first 1000 units. Their numbers are not even in the ball park.

    • Thanks. That’s about what I guessed.

      I figured $250,000 is about what it would cost to place an order with an OEM for an existing product. It’s nowhere near enough to put a new device into production.

  2. i would like a pair of the shoes but how would i get them ?

  3. I am so glad you wrote this article. I’m one of the people who commented on engadget (downtownjbrown), and I am really disturbed by the media outlets that are promoting this campaign. Happy someone did their research!

  4. I paid a dollar to voice my doubts on the comment wall.
    Here is a list of their ‘team’
    Corey Herscu – Media Relations
    Zack Young – Digital & Social Strategy
    Madeleine Stoesser – Media Relations
    Samantha Goldsilver – Campaigner
    George Alexandru Zaharia – Co-Founder/Lead Software Engineer
    David Coelho – Founder

    over 1/2 are social media guru’s who probably wouldn’t know what a soldering iron was if it bit them.

    They have no electrical engineer…. at all. They have a software engineer, but they need a f’n brilliant electrical engineer to make what they’re talking about.

    They’d need a very durable battery battery that wouldn’t break under stress that “charges while you walk”.

    They’d need a supplier who would be willing to supply technology that is now 1000 dollars a square meter for 5-10 dollars to make it profitable to sell at the price they’re quoting.

    They’d need someone in the shoe market to understand that part of the business as well.

    The most glaring problem I have with this campaign is it’s obvious target is people who love designer shoes but don’t understand computers or technology or crowdfunding in general.

    There was one commenters whose credit card kept getting rejected due to low balance, but he’d come back wanting those shoes so bad. That man might not be able to eat this Christmas because these guys decided to sell snake oil. (although that man is at fault as well.. don’t spend that much on shoes if you don’t have the resources for it.)

    • Good point, Holly. I didn’t think to check the staff, but you’re right in that they need several smart hardware engineers with diverse skill sets to pull this off.

      And they don’t have them.

  5. Thank you for this article!
    I’m an electronics engineer, so know this can’t be done! I also donated $1 so I could comment and try and warn people that this whole thing was not feasible. I think I had comment number 3, but no one would listen! 🙁 I also reported it to Indiegogo for breaking their terms and conditions, that’s when David and Co changed the campaign page (were told to?) to state that they were renderings.
    Now they’ve raised over $800k, and they get to just walk off with that money, seen it happen too many times. Indiegogo should have some kind of responsibility, but I guess as long as they get their cut they don’t care…

  6. Well, this article was proved wrong fast… go look at the new sites, such as http://www.shiftwear.com, or the blog at http://shiftwear.com/blog/, or their new user community at http://community.shiftwear.com/. The company is not only funded by those on indiegogo, but is funded also by outside backers and already has a lease for a storefront in NYC.

  7. it seems you conveniently left some information out matt, it is not nice to misinform people.

    the following is a question asked by matt to a former employee of shiftwear.

    Matt Caves
    Senior Electronics Engineer at Finisar
    Do you think the shoes are even viable? From what I can see it’s more a dream than reality.

    Vlad Andrei Marinescu (former employee of shiftwear)
    Yes, they are viable…

    enough said. haters gonna hate.

  8. Yep, he hadn’t left that comment until just the other day…
    I’ll still reserve judgement until I see the final product, I’m willing to bet that it won’t look anything like the renderings, we will see In the next couple of months I guess…

  9. We also wrote about this in our blog ” trendintech.com ” this guys still fooling people

  10. i can only tell you the shiftwear team is already 5 months ahead schedule just they did not release the info to public

    this project ideea was taking off way back on silicon valley’s days when Jobs and Gates where around same age this guys where, and boy they left it alone cause the tech was 10-20 years behind, but i can assure you its possible now, atleast in the next few months, after the campaign got the attention from public, all the big suppliers came in with different offers and support.

    they dont make public such things since that will make vital information spread to competition that is already looking to take them down.

    and when you mention the post about e-ink in 2006-2007 yes that was a lab test. but check the 2015 ones where they have back-planes and are not made from paper anymore.

    the suppliers are working with them and it will be something revolutionary going from 0 to 100 really quick, you just need to be have a bit of patience, you espect everything to be made overnight while a entire brand is built in time, plus the production line is hard to get setup give them 6 months and youl see what they do.

    consider this, other big shoe manufacturers didn’t do it just because did not have the public support they didn’t knew there is a market for it, and also when ur big there are more to lose then win.

    this guys are small now but in a bit of time will match big companies.

  11. Showing a simple prototype will not compromise “vital information”. And I don’t quite understand what you mean when you refer to E-INK and state, “check the 2015 ones where they have back-planes and are not made from paper anymore.” That makes no sense. They were made from paper?

    The company I work as a chemist for creates flexible backplanes and we are in close collaboration with E-INK. I would love to eat my words, as the technology has enormous potential, but my impression is that your “insider information” is garbage.

    • Hi Jen,

      Polyera is developing the Wove smartwatch, right?

      I did not mention it in this post, but I’m familiar with the Wove and I think comparing the two products will show us just how much is wrong with Shiftwear. (Please excuse me while I tell the readers what you already know.)

      The Wove is being developed by a company that has the engineering talent to back up their goals and has already shown off a demo that backs up the claims about the product. The folks behind Shiftwear have neither the c.v. or the demo.

      The Wove is a smartwatch/wristband product that needs to accomplish a couple major engineering feats: wrapping the screen around a wrist, and repeating that action multiple times. Shiftwear, on the other hand, has to pull off at least a half-dozen major engineering feats, including developing a new screen shape, mounting the screens on shoes, and ruggedizing those screens.

      This, in a nutshell, is why I think we could see the Wove one day, and why I never expect to see the Shfitwear. (Did I miss a point?)

  12. Prototype

    We do have a current prototype and we are looking forward to unveiling it in Q1 2016. We are knee-deep into development and are working out all of the kinks before we unveil this model. We want to be as transparent as possible, but at the same time we want to protect our proprietary information.

    At the end of the day, we are building something revolutionary, and can’t wait to share it with you all.

    — I’ll invest when I see that happen ? —

    Info used from: http://shiftwear.com/blog/

    • ” but at the same time we want to protect our proprietary information”

      I call BS.

      I don’t know about the business side but when it comes to engineering, the screen tech industry is more collegial than cutthroat. I have heard of competitors helping each other overcome engineering hurdles (Jen might know more about this than me), so I don’t believe you when you say that you have to keep this a secret.

      Frankly, if Shiftwear had real connections to the industry, and if it had a real product, competitors would have shown up in the comments and defended the company. Or at the very least they would have sent me emails and told me I was wrong.

      That hasn’t happened.

  13. You got it!

    Actually we have been able to address both engineering feats you mention and produce the band on manufacturing lines. Shiftwear has even more issues that they must address including refresh rates, ghosting, color (we’ve made it in the lab but it is not yet scalable), HD (seriously?), etc…

    Anyway, the Wove was on display at the E-INK booth at CES last month. I can’t go into much more information as it is confidential (not “shiftwear confidential” in that they don’t actually have anything) but suffice it to say, we are intimately involved with this technology and are aware of what other similar companies are capable of.

    Side note: LG showed a flexible OLED (which will also be possible with our backplane technology in the future) at CES and a BBC reporter did a small segment with the prototype. After he gently folds it twice, you see some enormous line defects on the screen. I bet the folks at the LG booth were cringing! http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35230043

    This technology has some room to grow and obstacles to overcome–no doubt– but it sure isn’t going to reach its full potential in some shoes promised by a team that has zero science/engineering background and no prototype. BUT I’m open to see what they come up with, as I’d really love to believe that all those supporters didn’t waste their money. :-/

    • Thanks, Jen.

      Yes, I knew about that LG demo; I posted that video a few weeks back. It’s the perfect example of what can’t be done yet with flexible screen tech, no matter how much engineering talent LG throws at the project.

      Shiftwear wants us to think they can solve a bending issue that LG hasn’t solved yet, but they have nothing to show us. I would change my tune if Shiftwear had a prototype, but obviously that hasn’t happened yet.

  14. my brother showed me these shoes and said his freind had them which i doubted then he rejected he ever said that

  15. You were so right on this one. They were saying that they’d have something to show in Q1, but haven’t shown anything. Communication has all, but ceased. What’s funny is that a few weeks ago they said that preorders would still be shipping in Decemeber.

  16. Posts to indiegogo that I wrote trying to warn people were deleted, and then they refunded my $1 so I could no longer comment on there! At least I got my $1 back, I feel sorry for the thousands that won’t…
    Posts are also being deleted on their own forums whenever anyone questions where the prototype is or accuses them of being a scam.

  17. No f—-way I’m one of those who be lived this was real am I out 750 bucks??who do I get my money back from?

  18. I was really hoping this was a real project, because the design looked so slick. It’s a shame that it will never see daylight.
    There is already a knock off of this project on indiegogo:
    https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/vixole-matrix-world-s-first-customizable-e-sneaker-game-shoes#/

  19. You can check the other smart shoes which is also has a feature of customization but in the body. http://techsparadise.com/2016/07/04/shooz-cutomizable-shoes/

  20. It’s now two days from December and of course these aren’t shipping. What’s amazing to me is that they were backed by thousands of people who committed hundreds of dollars, but really there has only been a handful of people complaining. If I’d have dropped hundreds of dollars to back these things I’d be furious.

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