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Inspiration happens in the unlikeliest of places.
It had been twenty days since Mario Esposito, a serial inventor and Microsoft engineer at that time, was going to the same coffee shop to gather his thoughts and wait for the spark of inspiration for the next big invention. Hopefully the one del secolo, of the century, but the inspiration was not coming up. That afternoon, his wife Victoria tried to cheer him up with a cappuccino. An unusual drink for him since –incredible but true- he didn’t drink coffee even if he is Italian.
Victoria was aware of the energetic effect of caffeine on Mario, but she didn’t expect what kind of energy was lying behind the drink. When the cappuccino spilt in his socks by accident Mario had the invention in front of his eyes. Observing the foam of the cappuccino being absorbed by the fabric of the socks, he realized that he was going in the wrong direction: he didn’t need to chase any idea, but he needed a “building block” to work with and to make it versatile for different projects.
The smart socks were born in an unlikely coffee shop, with the help of a cappuccino.
This is not the beginning of a fiction novel; this is the story behind the creation of Sensoria’s Fitness Socks, one of most innovative wearable sports gear ever designed.
Using a secret chemical process, Esposito realized he could convert any fabric into a pressure sensor and with the help of technology –of course- he could transform a pair of socks in something that could change people’s lives. Nowadays such expression is definitely overused, but in this case its meaning is appropriate because Sensoria’s Fitness Socks are not just helping runners, and improving performances in the sports world, but they have a large use in the healthcare system. In the elderly they can help by detecting and preventing injuries caused by falls thanks to the monitoring of the pressure through the feet and for diabetic individuals it can help avoid diabetic foot ulcers, through early detection.
The creation and the launch of the intelligent socks couldn’t have been possible without the partnership with two other brilliant Italians: Maurizio Macagno, a former software professional with over 20 years of experience now VP of Development & Co-Founder of Sensoria and Davide Vigano a former Microsoft Executive with over 25 years of sales, marketing and extensive product management experience, now CEO & Co-Founder of Sensoria. “The three of us together worked 60 years for Microsoft”, Mario says, smiling.
Sensoria’s Fitness Socks have been featured all over the national and international news, receiving prizes and recognitions because the innovation of this product. Besides counting steps and calories, measuring altitude, distance and speed, the socks can track foot landing patterns, cadence, and weight distribution on the foot.
These data sets are sent to a removable anklet that feeds the information to the Sensoria smartphone app that provides a virtual coach able to advise the users in real time. In this way the users can make corrections in their posture, adjust running form and improve their pose.
Esposito shared his experience in a way that just Italians have the gift for, making it special: detailed, colorful and fun to listen. Mario’s process that led him to obtain the chemical formula that is able to transform 80 percent of all fabrics into pressure and temperature sensors was not easy. The Sensoria’s Smart Socks invention was the most challenging in his life so far, but the one that made him driven without a doubt.
His approach in his laboratory was creative on all levels: he used what he could find in order to meet his needs, such as a mechanical Halloween witch that he modified to be used to replicate foot pressure on the fabric.“ I needed a machine that didn’t exist and I could have tried to order a customized one with the doubts of obtaining what I wanted, with the risk of wasting a lot of money. So, I decided to transform an inexpensive Goodwill treasure into something very useful” he says, “In my region this behavior is summarized with the Italian saying del maiale non si butta niente, nothing of the pig get wasted”.
When we asked him the source of his inspiration and success he said that the drive had two major foundations: his father, a business entrepreneur and a humble spirit at the same time and his mother with her endless creativity and willfulness.
“The vital lymph without any doubts are my two daughters”, he continues. “The idea that I can leave the pride of my inventions to them is an unspeakable joy”.
On the question about how do people treat him when he goes back home, in Pontecagnano, in the province of Salerno in the Campania region, he answers smiling: “Last year they named a street after me, I kid you not, I thought it was a joke, but it is real”.