26 March 2012

Runners' own emotions used to create personal shoes

Runners' own emotions are now being used to develop the next-generation personalised running shoe.

The project is a joint venture between RMIT University and the giant Japanese Mizuno Corporation.

Mizuno has been manufacturing sporting goods for a century and was the exclusive supplier for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

The partners believe the research could change forever how sporting products are developed, marketed and sold.

Researchers from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering are two years into the three-year project, which will finish at the end of this year at a cost of $500,000.

Professor Aleksandar Subic, Project Leader and Head of School, said they were using a user-centred design approach known as "Kansei engineering", developed by a Japanese professor in the 1970s. In English it means affective engineering.

"Using Kansei engineering we identify the needs and emotions of runners and relate these to the technical attributes of a perfectly customised running shoe," he said.

"Biomechanical requirements vary from athlete to athlete, so to make the best shoes for the individual we have to understand their mental state and translate it into product properties."

Professor Subic said the research aimed to quantify and relate performance attributes such as shock absorption, stiffness and durability to the particular feel experienced by the runner.

"From this we can develop a technology platform for the design and manufacture of next- generation running shoes," he said.

"The digital design of the individual product will be available for immediate transfer to rapid additive manufacture of the personalised running shoe."

Dr Yasunori Kaneko, Senior Manager of Research and Development at Mizuno Corporation, said that to design optimal sports products for individuals, the feelings and emotions of the athlete must be known.

"Kansei engineering is a method of translating feelings and impressions into product parameters," he said.

As part of the project, Dr Patrick Clifton, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, has undertaken a comprehensive series of tests and surveys involving 750 runners world-wide.

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