9to5Mac is reporting that Apple recently hired former Nike design director Ben Shaffer.
At Nike, Shaffer was the Studio Director of the Innovation Kitchen. This is Nike’s research and development lab where new product designs are created. Under Shaffer’s lead, Nike was named the most innovative company in 2013 by Fast Company. Nike’s Innovation Kitchen has been connected to wearable products like the popular Nike Fuel Band, and most recently, the Flyknit shoe.
The hiring of Shaffer comes just weeks after word surfaced that Apple had hired famed fitness guru and Nike FuelBand consultant Jay Blahnik.
As for the reasons behind Apple’s recent hires, the rumor mill suggests that Apple is shoring up its iWatch team with fitness experts to shore up functionality for the long-rumored device.
While no Apple product is ever official until publicly announced, there have been no shortage of reports indicating that Apple is working on some sort of wearable device. Indeed, Tim Cook even noted during a recent interview at the All Things D conference that the “wrist is interesting” with respect to wearable technology. On top of that, remember that Apple has filed for iWatch trademarks in a number of countries across the globe.
Returning back to Shaffer, Fast Company was able to source more details about his move from Nike to Apple. In doing so, Fast Company found that Shaffer was not, as initially reported, part of the team that helped develop the Nike FuelBand.
We have confirmed that Shaffer no longer works at Nike and that he is indeed going to Apple. There’s just one hiccup: Shaffer wasn’t really involved in the FuelBand project. He was not a “FuelBand designer”; rather, his contributions at Nike were related to footwear innovation. In fact, one Nike source just told me that it’s his understanding that Shaffer didn’t even do work on the FuelBand. It’s yet another example of the interminable Apple rumor mill–and serves as a sign of the intense anticipation for Apple to get involved in the wearable computer space, and of our tendency to grasp onto rumors and their expected connotations, regardless if they’re even true.
Still, Fast Company describes Shaffer as a brilliant engineer who played a key role in the development of Nike’s Flyknit technology, which enables shoes to be extremely light weight. You can read more about that over here.
So per usual, Apple seems to be up to something, but only the folks at Apple know specifically what that might be.