With luck, come 2050, we’ll all be living in bubble cities, driving flying cars, and logging our miles in self-repairing 3D-printed running shoes made from synthetic biological materials.
If that last bit sounds especially farfetched, it’s not—at least not according to Shamees Aden, the London designer and researcher behind Protocells trainers. These amazing shoes would be 3D-printed to match the size of each runner’s foot, the magazine Dezeen reports, and would fit perfectly, “like a second skin.”
But that’s not all. Because they’d be made with protocells—extremely basic non-living molecules that can be combined to form living organisms—these space-age trainers would adapt as needed, “puffing up,” as Dezeen puts it, to give athletes added padding when necessary.
“The cells have the capability to inflate and deflate and to respond to pressure," Aden told the magazine at the Wearable Futures conference in London. "As you're running on different grounds and textures, it's able to inflate or deflate depending on the pressure you put onto it and could help support you as a runner.”
Aden is developing his synthetic running shoes with Dr. Martin Hanczyc, a protocell expert from the University of Southern Denmark, and while the shoes likely wouldn’t be available for another 30-odd years, mere mention of these scientific marvels is enough to get Nike, New Balance, and other popular shoemakers sweating.
That’s because if Aden succeeds and protocells reach the market, runners will no longer need to replace their shoes as the padding wears out. We’ll all save lots of green—you know, provided we still use printed money in 2050—but there is one catch: We’ll need something like green thumbs.
After each run, Eden says, the protocells would lose their energy and need to soak in rejuvenating protocell fluid.
"You would take the trainers home and you would have to care for it as if it was a plant, making sure it has the natural resources needed to rejuvenate the cells,” Aden said.