The Nike Sports Research Lab started in 1980, initially to understand runners’ needs to make the best products for athletes. The focus of the NSRL is on biomechanics, physiology, sensory/perception and data science. The research lab collects 3D motion from an athlete and from there calculates the power that the athlete produces, the energy that is produced or lost at different joints, and an understanding of how that motion or intervention contributes to the overall performance of the athlete. High-speed cameras collect video at 1,000 times the rate of standard video cameras and four force plates in the floor allow researchers to see how athletes generate force and where the power comes from.
The lab also has a copper-sweating robot, named Hal, which tests the clothing in different types of environments. The robot is kept in a chamber that can be set to different environmental conditions, such as temperature and humidity. As the robot moves, he sweats, and this allows researchers to understand different constructions, layering, or methods of making the garments. This is used to understand the comfort of the athlete, as well as thermoregulation. The NSRL is capable of looking at how athletes perform and how they fatigue, as well as how the product fits, its flexibility and traction.
As Nike moves into the future, there are two major frontiers; individualized product, and materials that adapt to different movements and environmental conditions. Nike uses all the data that they collect from subjects in the lab to produce exceptional products, to keep an athlete safe, comfortable, and help them improve performance. The NSRL is a destination for athletes, because the team can help solve a problem they have or assist with a performance issue, but throughout it all, the team includes the athlete in the process. The athlete provides verbal feedback that helps Nike drive their products forward. The lab is not only a place to test Nike’s latest products and designs, but they also evaluate athletes, frame by frame, to help personal performance.