Bitcoin isn’t always about price charts and investment strategies. Sometimes it can simply be fun.
That's the goal behind Bitsneaks, a limited edition of “the world’s most high-tech sneakers” capable of displaying the live price of Bitcoin, developed by Swedish startup Bitrefill and NBA star Spencer Dinwiddie.
Created by Bitrefill’s own team in cooperation with Scandinavian tech wizards at the Nordic Society for Invention and Discovery (TNSID), Bitsneaks incorporate a flexible LED-matrix display and 3G connectivity to show the price of Bitcoin and the block height in real time.
Describing the project as "super silly and completely unreasonable," Bitrefill founder and CEO Sergej Kotliar told Decrypt that, "For us to beat giants like Nike and build what everyone said was impossible is yet another proof of what a small dedicated team like ours can do when trying to achieve something truly foolish."
Alongside the internet-connected shoes, each Bitsneaks shoebox has a full node that shows the Bitcoin mempool, and can even mine Bitcoin—albeit very slowly.
“I’ve always strived to be a transformative and revolutionary leader in the cryptocurrency world and the opportunity to develop the world’s most high-tech sneaker with Bitrefill has been the experience of a lifetime,” Dinwiddie, who plays for the Dallas Mavericks, said in a statement.
Celebrating those living on Bitcoin
According to Kotliar, the Bitsneaks project was born about six months ago out of an idea to build something that would celebrate the people who live on Bitcoin.
“The realization is that most people who live on Bitcoin do that out of choice—it's a statement,” Kotilar told Decrypt. “And while we can't run Superbowl ads or sponsor Formula 1 like our competitors, we have grit and creativity and mad coding skills, so we decided to create something so that the people that live on Bitcoin can look cool.”
Bitrefill, a Swedish startup that normally allows users to buy gift cards or top up their mobile phones using Bitcoin's Lightning Network, dedicated five team members to work on the project. It involved everything from a Bitsneaks app, to display software, to building an ultra-low-bandwidth server for streaming data to the shoe.
The final product wouldn’t be possible without the folks from TNSID, whom Kotliar praised for their “extremely over-engineered but must-have products” like the Wall of Sound—the world's largest iPod speaker, released in 2009.
“They haven't been active for years but decided to come together to build this one thing with us, and we're incredibly grateful they chose to do this thing with us,” he said.
When asked what the hardest thing about creating Bitsneaks was, Kotliar said that “when you're making something like this, even a limited edition shoe, it needs to have all the parts built for real.”
“Not just the shoe itself, which is an amazing feat of engineering, but everything from the shoebox to the controller app to the server—we had to build everything from scratch,” he told Decrypt.
Still, according to Kotliar, “it was a lot of fun and very different from the things we normally do, so it was a fun side project. And we're incredibly happy that Spencer decided to participate and lend his personal brand as a top-tier athlete to our humble project.”
Bitsneaks don’t come cheap; they’re priced at 1 BTC, or around $41,000 at time of going to press. According to Kotliar, they’re worth it. “In the same way we believe our services at Bitrefill.com must be 10 times better than our competitors, when we made a sneaker, we wanted it with 10x the coolness of anything else,” he said.
“We’ll let you decide whether we were successful," he said, adding that more campaigns and new product releases are in the works and will be announced in the coming weeks.