Former Beats by Dre chief executive officer Susan Paley today launches DropLabs, new technology that enhances the music listening experience through footwear.
DropLabs converts audio input into vibrations via Bluetooth, replicating the sensations of the music listening experience in a car, club or concert. The technology was invented in 2008 by Brock Seiler, a musician, inventor and sound engineer who met Paley in 2015. Seiler got the idea for DropLabs when he listened to a live R&B funk band performance and stood in an area where he could feel the music through his whole body. Paley raised the capital for the technology, which launches today in its first iteration, the EP 01 sneakers.
“All the tech is inside the midsole. It’s a personal experience,” said Paley, who has also worked with JBL, General Motors/Fiat and Universal Music Group, among others. At first glance, the EP 01 sneakers are a knit, ath-leisure style with cup sole construction, EVA insole and rubber outsole with a cymatic pattern. The pattern is a hint to the sneakers’ capabilities — the $549 sneakers feature DropLabs technology in the midsole that creates vibrations to the music the wearer is listening to and stimulates nerve receptors in the feet. The sneakers also come with a charger and line in and splitter cables.
“[DropLabs] started as music entertainment; this is really a dev platform,” she continued. “We’ve put it in a shoe so that people can experience it in an everyday use case, but the use case that everyone is starting with may not be the use cases that ultimately result from it. My journey has been let’s get smart about what this is. Yes, it’s super entertaining, but how much more is there?”
Other use cases include rehabilitation and therapy. Paley said athletes have reached out to try the technology to prepare or recover from games and EMDR therapists that treat trauma and PTSD have looked into the technology for their patients.
On the consumer side, Paley sees how DropLabs can enhance the gaming experience. The EP 01 sneakers work as a two-way communication device that can link to a game controller through a splitter cable. When wearing the sneakers while gaming, the wearer will feel the vibrations of their character’s movements and from the environment on their left or right sides.
“If you have a really sloppy soundtrack it’s not great on the shoe. ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ is bananas because they really thought about sound,” Paley said. The wearer can feel the vibrations of running, horseback riding and railroad trains through the sneakers.
Former Brand Jordan design director D’Wayne Edwards joined DropLabs and is designing the next styles that will use the technology. Edwards designed the Air Jordan 21 and 22 and sneakers for Derek Jeter, Carmelo Anthony and Roy Jones Jr. He also founded the Pensole Footwear Design Academy, in partnership with Adidas, Foot Locker and Asics and colleges at the New School’s Parsons School of Design and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“This is really a collaboration platform and then D’Wayne Edwards will take it,” Paley said. “It’s about where the market takes it because our focus is all about optimization of the tech. So eventually it could be a Dr. Scholl’s insole.”