Ahead of the Times

Everyone knows these days the only way to achieve greatness is by manipulating the news media. Ahead of the Times (ATs) represents a new line of sneakers that will have you balling like the pros. These shoes keep you above it all while misinforming the sheeple trying to hold you back. ATs work by projecting a jumble of todays current headlines behind you as you walk, creating a “laser-like” effect that will shock and awe. Of course, ATs also make it easy to keep up on the haters. Just take a seat, kick your feet up and scroll through headlines at your leisure. Available exclusively at itpreadymades.wordpress.com 

Ahead of the Times from Jesse Horwitz on Vimeo.

Physical Fabrication:

Part of the idea in making the projector shoe was to build something where the projection is in the shoe. Everything that we looked at had the electronics on the outside and we wanted to take this farther and embed everything inside, so that it’s one “cohesive” object. To get there, our prototype has taken quite the beating but it works.

What we decided on using was a pair of size 12 men’s hiking sneakers (so everything can fit inside as well as a foot!) a rasberry pi 3 (the pi zero’s were on their way at this point) and a laser beam projector, along with those parts, we needed space for power cord and an hdmi cord and a lipo battery and charger.

Modifying the shoe,  meant stripping the padding on the inside and making holes in the heel of the shoe for the projector lens to show. To make the hole, Satbir got pretty close with the drill press and one of John’s personal specialty bits. Securing the shoe was a two person job and Angela helped to clamp the shoe down, then the bit was used to make a hole, and repeated for the second shoe.

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From here it was figuring out how all the parts would fit into the shoe. The projector had a specific location to be in, which was the back of the shoe in the heel. We decided that it would be okay if the raspberry pi 3 was on the outside of the shoe. It wouldn’t be the final look of the shoe, since we were getting pi zeros the following week. The battery was placed behind the projector in a small pocket was available. The battery charger was pinned to the outside of the shoe, so the wires could fit. For the next version, A pocket would be made to house the electronics that would go into the shoe. A button was glued into the front of the shoe near where the ball of the foot would be, that button would trigger the next image.

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For the second version we used the pi zeros, which really gave us what we wanted. A small enough computer to fit into the shoe without hurting any foot (too much).

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For this version,  two pockets were sewn up so that the raspberry pi, battery pack and charger, along with some of the wires (coiled up) could fit into the side of the shoe where the foot instep goes, to free up space and make it a bit more comfortable when walking. The wires were exchanged for shorter ones and some cuts were added into the shoes to allow for the wires to poke out and around my ankle area. These modifications helped to walk with more room.


The software for this worked primarily by creating a file full of images and launching a command line app called “feh” to generate a GPIO triggered slideshow. The first step was installing feh. This is billed as a lightweight image viewer for linux systems so it seems appropriate for running a slide show on a low power device like the Pi Zero. Here is a good tutorial on a similar use case. Next we needed some way to trigger the next slide via GIPO input. pikeyd came up as an easy way to do this. This is a keyboard daemon for Raspberry Pi that simulates a specific key press when it receives an input on a specific GPIO pin. Once we configured piKeyd each time we connected GPIO 3 to ground it would simulate a Right arrow key press to change the feh slide. At this point we could get the shoes working with a premade set of slides. The next challenge was updating these slides automatically. We used the newsAPI to pull headlines from English language sources and a python library called Pillow to generate images of the text on a black background. Old headline images were cleared out and replaced by updated headlines each time the python script was run.

Next Steps!:

We’d like to develop an entire shoe with this technology integrated from the beginning. A lot of the difficulty we had with miniaturization had to do with adapters and cable length  Which could easily be eliminated with custom hardware. In addition a purpose built laser projector could dissipate heat and share power management with the computer more efficiently. Designing our own shoe also enables us to make something thats actually comfortable and more durable than a modified shoe could be. We also plan to experiment with different types of projections.


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