Adidas Adizero f50 powered by miCoach: The boot with a brain
The future of football is here, now, and is on the feet of Lionel Messi, Gareth Bale and Samir Nasri. And for one afternoon in September, it was also on the feet of Pocket-lint at the easyCredit-Stadion in Germany, the home of FC Nuremberg.
We're talking innovation in football boots here, which have come a long way since ex-Liverpool player Craig Johnston tore the rubber off of a table tennis bat and glued it to his boots in the early 1990s, thus paving the way for the first Adidas Predators.
And it's Adidas who is keen to stay at the forefront of technological advancement within the world of football. Last year we told you about the German company's Adizero f50 boot, the lightest boot ever made at 164g.
Well this year, the Adizero f50 has gained a solitary gram - but has added a whole lot more. At a briefing at the stadium before the big match the director of miCoach at Adidas, Simon Drabble, described the new f50 boots as "the next generation of football innovation".
From Drabble's job title you've probably gathered the big new addition to the boot - the inclusion of miCoach, Adidas' interactive personal training tool.
The way it is incorporated into a football boot is via a micro-chip, dubbed the miCoach Speed Cell, that fits into a slot buried beneath the sock-liner and in a position on the shoe so as to not affect performance.
Adidas product manager Andreas Konrads, who described the new f50 as "the world's first boot with a brain", also stated that "it was important that we didn't sacrifice any performance benefits such as flexibility which is something that you want to have on a football boot."
The chip lets you track your performance during a match, highlighting 360-degree movement, so not just linear action as per similar setups for runners. It collects data on your speed and distance and, when paired with the Speed Cell software, gives you a detailed breakdown of your performance including your average speed, the distance you covered, the time you spent walking, the number of sprints and so on. It teams up with a USB dongle that operates over a wireless connection when the boots are nearby.
"Interactive technologies and services are giving us an understanding of the way people train, the way people play and the way in which we can help them get better through that training and their performance," said Drabble.
"Data streams are everywhere today in the world and it's data that's helping us to understand the way people and technologies perform in comparison with our attributes. Data helps us solidify our understanding of an event or an activity that may be taking place, it helps us distinguish between what is true and false and helps us eliminate doubt."
The idea, Drabble explained, is not only for players to track their own performances, but to compare their stats to other players, including the pros - via an online portal. The data can be viewed on this website or also through dedicated mobile apps (iOS and Android) that also have a game built-in featuring an avatar who is powered up by your achievements.
Pocket-lint's stats were skewed slightly by the fact that we went in goal for the last 10 minutes whilst protecting a 3-1 lead. Needless to say, our performance throughout the match was Messi-esque, with some Roy Keane-like leadership thrown in for good measure.
Our verdict on the boots - they're fantastic and feel so light that you almost feel like you are running in bare-feet. Bare-feet with incredible grip and control, that is, thanks to the Sprintweb, Sprintskin and Sprintframe technology built-in.
But the colour-scheme - bright orange and yellow - is probably not for us. We lied about being Messi-esque. In fact we lied about our Roy Keane-like leadership skills. The only boots suitable for a Sunday league clugger like us is a pair of black ones. In fact, the prototype black pair that Adidas had on show (and which young Lionel has been sporting, secretly, ahead of the official launch) would have sufficed.
We didn't lie about going in goal for 10 minutes though. That really happened. We drew 3-3 however, so the 3-1 lead never stayed intact.
Drabble also gave us a taste of what might be to come with the next generation of intelligent boot - one that would be able to record touches, tackles, shots and so on.
"With every year that goes by there's a new innovation and new forms of technology that might enable us to take it to the next level," he explained. "This is one piece of the puzzle that we're now putting into place in respect to understanding speed and distance performance and actually integrating that into a boot.
"There's a whole conversation about power and sensing elements to be further investigated. We're happy to say that we're looking at other alternatives for understanding how people play through both technological and physiological aspects."
The Adizero f50 powered by miCoach will be available in November. It'll cost €245 if you want the Speed Cell and the dongle bundled in.