Nike’s Glowing Olympic Camp Teases The Sci-Fi Future Of Sports

Walls of lights. Hard data. Nike is redesigning recreation for the electronic age.

We’ve seen Nike’s new thesis developing over the last few months. It’s not just about shoes anymore, and it’s not just about logging your last run. It’s about counting everything we do, building our apparel into sports sensors and creating a cloud-based infrastructure that keeps it all straight. It’s digitizing performance.

During the 10 days of Olympic running trials, Nike planted a flag in their hometown of Eugene, Oregon. Enlisting design agency Hush to work with architectural partner Skylab (along with a slew of other collaborators, including AV&C, Red Paper Heart, Antfood, and Big Giant), the two companies spent eight months conceptualizing and building "Camp Victory," a culmination of Nike’s new wave of products along with a few that don’t quite exist, offering us a taste of the techno-athletic, not-so-distant future to come.

The 100-meter Speed Tunnel featured a 15-foot-tall LED wall that depicted the fastest runs from the Olympic trials—a giant, 1:1 representation of just how fast the world’s fastest are. Head-to-head treadmills allowed runners to face off in the virtual world, creating a gorgeous leaderboard (complete with portraits) by time. Nike+ heat maps built from local runs combined to depict a giant topographical map of the local Oregon terrain, explorable in 3-D.

The scene had an absurd, larger than life scale, a 10-day sci-fi epic with a budget that would make Ron Moore green with envy. LEDs were too bright. Casual sprinting was taken too seriously. And that was entirely the idea.

More and more, I’m realizing that Nike intends on bringing all of the addictive absurdity of pro sports—the constant over-analysis, the eye-melting media interfaces and the wildly hyperbolic celebrations—to the everyday consumer on their morning run. You may be playing basketball at the Y with an eight-inch vert, but with the right pair of sneakers and Nike+, you get to feel like Lebron James. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing, if it gets us taking our own health more seriously—you know, almost as seriously as we take all of the Olympic competition we’re about to watch from our collective couch.

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  • Andy

    Nike is a slick marketing company with crappy products. All style and very little substance. Their shoes are horrible quality, their clothes are a bad fit, and their entire Nike+ line is a joke. Check the app store. Nike+ running has more negative reviews than positive. Mark, I know you love Nike, but you should check out Asics or Adidas or Jawbone or Fitbit. They all do what Nike does better, just without the laughable marketing ploys.

  • Greg

    They're not only a slick marketing company, they're a great marketing company.  So is Apple.  I'm not a Nike fanboy, either, but as a product designer with experience in developing soft goods & electronics, I have to say that most of the your comments lack substance.  All the footwear companies produce shoes of varying qualities - my current Nike training shoes have outlasted my recent Adidas & Asics purchases by far, and use superior materials and construction methods.  

    A lot of their clothes are made for athletes - even their "casual" clothes.  So if you're not in shape, they won't fit well.  

    Saying that a company like Jawbone - which had it's only comparable product recalled & pulled due to technical deficiencies - is doing what Nike does only better is a statement even the people at Jawbone wouldn't touch.

  • Isabella Lo

    Amazing. Once again. Nike shows us how it transform itself from a shoe company to a sports technology leader. What other companies can you see such a transformation or evolution?