Nike, lifetime Lebron James benefactor, has patented a technique for printing 3D displays on its shoes.
While the 3D images won’t be dynamic, they will be “photorealistic” — imagine, for example, a lifelike Michael dunking on your Jordan 11s instead of the classic red silhouette. The U.S. Patent Office describes the new technology as a “device for displaying image on apparel,” illustrating their invention with a sketch of a generic pair of mid-cut kicks with a sketch of a diffident though neatly bearded and Jidenna-haired man where the logo ought to be. (The patent is a continuation of a similar one filed in 2014, also by Nike.)
Although the concept is fairly simple, the technology behind it is actually pretty complex. While the images appear a lot like lithophanes — backlit, 3D engravings that 19th century Europeans went batshit for — these images don’t require a light source, creating the multidimensional effect using the combination of an opaque background layer and a semi-transparent, colored display layer.
Will lifelike logos take over iconography as the next sneakerhead craze? Could King James’ next 12 Nike franchises be a series of high-tops featuring his affable mug?