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.