Meet BILL, Nike’s sneaker cleaning robot


Keen to restore its green image by making sneakers last as long as possible, Nike came up with the Bot Initiated Longevity Lab, otherwise known as BILL.

BILL (below) is a massive, brush-laden contraption designed to clean your Nike shoes back to looking like new.

This month, BILL lives in Nike’s flagship store in central London, offering customers the chance to get their Nike trainers revamped for free. The service even includes any minor repairs that need to be done, although it looks like human staff, rather than BILL, will do them.

Take note, however. BILL will not only deal any Nike shoes. Currently, the robot only accommodates the Air Force 1, Air Jordan 1, Space Hippie 01, and Nike Dunks.

So how does BILL work his magic? Well, according to Nike, after loading a shoe into the robot, BILL first creates a 3D digital model of it to highlight targeted cleaning areas on the shoe’s upper, sidewalls and outsole.

Buyers can also manually select wear areas on the shoe’s upper to indicate what they would like to have repaired.

Once BILL has deployed his various brushes, rags and other tools to the shoe’s needs – a process that apparently takes around 45 minutes – Nike staff will take a moment to add new liners and laces made from materials recycled. And, with those repairs likely taken care of, you should be good to go.

“The fact is, keeping an old product going is deeply personal,” Nike chief Noah Murphy-Reinhertz said in a statement. “People will go to great lengths to take care of their favorite shoes. Repairing a product is a way to extend our memory with a product. We see BILL as a tool to be able to do this. Robots can do things that are difficult to do by hand, but when we’ve used robotics as part of recycling technology, we still want the service to be personal.

Murphy-Reinhertz said the BILL rollout is a testing exercise that will hopefully provide Nike with useful insights for its future involvement in sustainable services.

BILL complements the company’s existing eco-service, such as Nike Refurbished, which extends the life of eligible products by refurbishing slightly worn and slightly imperfect sneakers, and Nike Recycling and Donation, which asks customers to turn in their old Nike sports equipment so that parts of it can be reused in one way or another.

You can meet BILL at Nike Town on Oxford Street in London throughout September. After that, we assume you’ll need to throw your sneakers in the washing machine as normal.

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