SXSW 2013: Talking Shoes and Road Trip Smileage With Google

It was such a crazy week at South by Southwest (SXSW) last week, that it’s taken a while to share all the exciting creativity stories that took place. One that stood out was Google’s “talking shoe.” That’s right, you heard it correctly – the search giant unveiled an early prototype of motion-sensing smart shoes. With an embedded speaker on the tongue, the shoe is able to shout at you when you’re being lazy, or motivate you when you’re being active.


Google created its talking shoes in collaboration with Adidas, YesYesNo, and advertising agency 72andSunny. According to Mike Glaser, marketing lead from Art, Copy & Code at Google, the aim of the shoes is to bring the idea of advertising to multiple creative forms, including the everyday objects around us. By connecting a pair of sneakers to the web, Google is able to create unique opportunities between physical objects in the real world and digital ad spaces, he says.

“Every move the wearer of the shoes makes generates data that’s captured using an accelerometer, gyroscope, and pressure sensors. That data then gets pushed to an app on a mobile, and translated in real time into funny and motivating commentary. That commentary then gets pushed to banners and social media networks, including status updates to Google+,” Glaser explains.

Though the talking shoes seem like they could be the next coolest “must- haves” on the market, Glaser notes that they are merely for show and will not be released. Bummer!

The shoes were part of the Google Playground at SXSW, where the company was showing off some of its latest ideas and innovations from the Art, Copy & Code project.


Another campaign that was unveiled at the playground was the Volkswagen Smileage app, showcased under the slogan, “It’s not the miles, it’s how you live them.” The app, in partnership with automobile brand Volkswagen, aims to add fun to every drive, from daily commutes to holiday road trips.

Using a metric called “smileage,” the app will measure the fun factor of each trip based on signals like weather, traffic, location, time, and social interactions. It will be able to be used with any car, not just Volkswagens.

“We wanted to work with Volkswagen on this because they are a leader in the automobile space and bring brand awareness. In turn, we bring them technology so it’s a win for everybody…We wanted to create a fun and cool experience on an app that’s away from the usual dashboard. Again, it exemplifies the ability of connecting objects in the physical world into the digital world,” Glaser comments.

Powered by the new Google+ Sign-In, drivers can choose to share Smileage experiences with friends and family. For example, during a road trip, photos and videos taken by you and your co-passengers can be automatically added to a live interactive map.

Volkswagen’s Smileage is hoped to be released later this year.

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