The Secret Innovations Determining The Future Of Sports

Recently released designs give a sneak peek into the future of sports health, wellness, and travel for professional athletes.

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Whether it was the “Waffle Trainer” in 1974, the “Vaporfly” design in 2017, or everything in between, Phil Knight and Nike have spent the last 40+ years consistently creating and marketing some of the most innovative products in sports history.

Their next two projects?

  • A climate controlled chair for live sporting event integration

  • Custom outfitted Boeing 787’s to improve athlete rest and recovery

Today we’ll take a look at early visual designs of the two products and discuss the potential impact of the technology - good or bad.

Nike’s “Micro-Climate” Smart Chair - (H/T Patent Drop)

Let’s be real - Technology in 2020 is way too advanced for NBA players to be sitting on foldable chairs when they transition in and out of a game, which offer no benefit to the performance of a player.

Who’s going to change that?

Nike, who just released a revised version of a 2016 patent for “Micro-Climate” Smart Chairs.

The smart chair will be used during live sporting events to create a “Micro-Climate” around the player. Think about it this way, when NBA players head to the bench their main objective is to keep their muscles warm for reactivation when they enter the game to prevent injury. But what about cooling down their internal nervous system? Or checking their hydration, heart rate, and respiratory rate?

That’s where the Nike smart chair comes in.


  • The chair contains hundreds of biometric sensors and thermal transducers which keep an athletes “active” muscles at an optimal temperature to re-enter the game - think hamstrings, quads, etc.

  • Along with keeping certain muscles warm, the biometric sensors and thermal transducers have the ability to cool down an athletes central nervous system by transferring cool air throughout certain parts of their body.

  • The chair works with integrated identity sensors (think RFID Chips in clothing) to provide in-game analytics around an athletes hydration, heart rate, and more.

  • Analytics will be transferred to team representatives in real-time to help determine the optimal time for game re-entry and injury prevention opportunities.

The chair is definitely more geared towards basketball right now, but with some structural changes, it has the potential application for all sports.

Ultimately, this is the way sports are moving. Teams have invested heavily in analytics over the last decade, using the data to acquire players and build championship teams. Now it’s time to use those same analytical concepts to keep players healthy and protect your investments.

Want to see the chair in action? Here’s a 2-minute clip of the architect, Greg Lynn, discussing the key features and potential application of the chair.

Nike’s Custom Boeing 787

Nike recently released a potential plane design they did in collaboration with Portland-based design firm Teague.

Check out the tweet below - it’s a short summary with pictures of what you need to know.

If you want to see more of the concept, click here.

Unlike the smart chair, which Nike is putting real resources toward building, it seems unlikely that Nike would shift priorities and start manufacturing custom outfitted Boeing 787’s for sports teams.

One can dream though right?

The concept is amazing, and to some degree, it already exists. It’s not technically “optimized for performance”, but the plane the Boston Red Sox took to London last year certainly didn’t leave them squished in coach seats either.

Even if Nike doesn't get into the plane customization business, the concept still rings true. Nike is consistently knocking down the door of sports innovation, always looking for futuristic ways to optimize player performance and health.

My bet?

The recently released climate controlled chair and plane designs are just a tiny peek into their war chest of innovation, with hundreds of more ideas on the horizon. As they start to show their cards, it’ll be fun to see how they continue to impact sports for generations to come.

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