How Tech Helps Nike Change the Game

I’ve been shopping recently for a new pair of running shoes, and it’s been a bit of a Goldilocks scenario. This one was too big, that one was too small. I’m still not sure I’ve landed on just right.

So hearing the vice president of Digital Design Transformation at Nike, Ken Black, speak at Dell World was timely insight into the next-generation footwear – enabled by next-generation technology from Dell.

Jeremy Burton of Dell and Ken Black of Nike on state at Dell World 2017

“Shoe design may not sound like rocket science but let’s just say the ‘cobbler has evolved,’ so to speak and actually it’s rather cutting-edge these days,” Dave Altavilla of HotHardware said after hearing him speak.

Valereie Vacante, founder of Collabsco, noted in Clausette that as a physical products company, visualization and realization of the end product are crucial for Nike.

“At the heart of things we’ve always been makers. From the beginning we’ve been craftsmen, tinkerers, innovators,” Black said. “I think that has really been the thing that has enabled us to drive the performance and the esthetic of what we call modern sports.

“One of the things I love the most is we really boil it down to a pretty simple goal. What we want to do is inspire the world with what we create. To help athletes do things they’ve never thought possible.”

Almost twenty years after Dell launched our Precision line of workstations, customers are combining them with augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to change the game in design and product development.

In this environment, things that will become more premium and influence the speed and possibility of creation are:

  • Instant visualization
  • Immediate collaboration
  • Realtime fidelity
  • Contextual experience

So our own designers and engineers worked together with customers on this view of what the future of design could be, and from that collaboration came Dell Canvas.

Sarah Burkhart, the product manager for Dell Canvas described it as a “dual surface immersive creation device that has a ‘doing surface’ and a ‘seeing surface,’ plus touch, totem and pen.”

Canvas works with all the software used by designers and other creatives like Adobe, Autodesk and Cakewalk, as well as the AR glasses seen in the video above. That’s because in addition to listening to what customers need, we’ve also been working with partners like Meta, who make those glasses, to enable immersive creativity for designers.

We can’t do that alone. We need partners like Meta and Ultrahaptics to help us rethink how work gets done. Ultrahaptics is responsible for the spatial haptics technology allowing you to feel the holographic interface seen in the video.

Author Mark Schaefer called it “magic” in his recent post, but as our latest commercials note, it’s not the kind of magic only seen in fairy tales. With seven technology leaders now together under the Dell Technologies umbrella, digital transformation becomes very real for our customers.

Black explained that Nike’s digital transformation is about bringing dimension to the ideas that live in their designers’ minds, as quickly and beautifully as possible.

“How do we get the brilliant idea that exists in each designers head out and in the world – to you – faster, better, more beautifully and more seamlessly?” he asked the audience. “It’s about the visualization. But being a physical product company, it’s also about the realization of that end product.”

When asked how can technologies like Canvas, AR and haptics free up designers to think outside of what they are limited to today, Black said he thinks of that future as “hypernatural” – a more seamless and advanced form of what creators have always been doing.

“This brings it all to your fingertips,” he said after the Canvas demonstration. “As you look at the video, what we love about being able to work in 2D and see it in 3D is as we work with our athletes, which is critical being able to co-create with someone like LeBron or KD, as they see an idea taking form, becoming that 3D shape, we really think will change the game.”

You can watch the replay of Black’s time on stage, as well as the Canvas demonstration, on the Dell World event website.

About the Author: Laura Pevehouse

Laura Pevehouse was profiled as one of five “social media mavens” in the March 2009 issue of Austin Woman Magazine and named an AdWeek’s TweetFreak Five to Follow. She has been part of the Dell organization for more than 15 years in various corporate communications, employee communications, public relations, community affairs, marketing, branding, social media and online communication roles. From 2014-2018, Laura was Chief Blogger/Editor-in-Chief for Direct2DellEMC and Direct2Dell, Dell’s official corporate blog that she help launch in 2007. She is now a member of the Dell Technologies Chairman Communications team. Earlier in her Dell career she focused on Global Commercial Channels and US Small and Medium Business public relations as part of the Global Communications team. Prior to that, she was responsible for global strategy in social media and community management, as well as marcom landing pages, as a member of Dell’s Global SMB Marketing, Brand and Creative team. When she was part of Dell’s Global Online group, Laura provided internal consulting that integrated online and social media opportunities with a focus on Corporate Communications and Investor Relations. She managed the home page of, one of the top 500 global web sites in Alexa traffic rank, and first brought web feeds and podcasts to the ecommerce site. In her spare time she led Dell into the metaverse with the creation of Dell Island in the virtual world Second Life. Laura has earned the designation of Accredited Business Communicator from the International Association of Business Communicators, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Louisiana State University. Before joining Dell Financial Services in 2000, she worked at the Texas Workforce Commission and PepsiCo Food Systems Worldwide.