Yesterday, Olympic snowboarding fans again witnessed an awesome spectacle: Two frontrunners going at it, the U.S.A.’s veteran rider Shaun White versus Japan’s incredible Ayumu Hirano. Hirano appears to have been born strapped into a snowboard; Burton has been sponsoring him since he was in the 4th grade. Now just 19 years old, he’s battling for gold with the more experienced 31-year-old White.
Now for some design talk. Both White and Hirano are sponsored by Burton, so no matter which of them took gold, Burton would be the true winner.
So here we’re going to highlight a design project Burton has spent years developing, their Step On binding system.
The dominant method of attaching boots to bindings is via straps. From a UX perspective, straps work well during riding but are a bit of a hassle to get on and off. It would be far easier to simply step onto the board and have the boots magically connect. That’s why in the ’90s numerous manufacturers, including Burton, attempted to design “step-in” boot-to-binding systems, but none of them could get it right; the riding performance was compromised with every design. It seemed impossible to design a step-in system that performed as well as straps, and thus the latter prevailed.
Three years ago, however, Burton decided to take another crack at it. “A strapless boot-to-binding system that doesn’t compromise comfort or performance sounded like a tall order,” the company writes, “but we pulled together our best developers and set them to work.”
This is the classic industrial design process here. Ideation, experimentation, improvisation, testing, testing, testing. Using the hell out of an SLS machine for rapid prototyping. Getting user feedback, solving engineering problems, and having that willingness to fail and learn, fail and learn over and over again:
I love seeing the things they have to build that end users never think about, like the improvised GoPro rig for real-world observation, and the snowblowing rig to clog the binding with snow.
Now back to the Olympics! Japan’s Ayumu Hirano, who’s known for his amplitude (i.e. he gets crazy air) is no joke: He won silver at age 14 at the 2013 X Games, making him the youngest X Games medalist in history. At 2014 he again took silver while Shaun White, a two-time gold medalist, did not make the podium at all. Here’s Hirano’s run yesterday:
Hirano’s 95.25 beat White’s earlier 94.25–but White had one run left. Here’s White’s final run:
Click here to watch the original HD video of this epic run, which NBC has made unembeddable, to better understand what’s happening. Watch it!!!