Meet the Man Who Put GPS Into Shoes

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Why you should care

Because we take most things in our life for granted — time to shake things up.

Sitting on a chair, you assume it has four legs. Sipping a cup of coffee, you don’t think twice about it having a handle. Looking into binoculars, you’d never second-guess that you use your eyes. Meet Dominic Wilcox, the inventor who will make you toss those assumptions about what is and isn’t normal in the dump.

Those binoculars? Wilcox created some for your ears. A car? He made one out of stained glass that you sleep in. Skipping stones? He fashioned luxury ones out of gold. We could go on and on, but first: Why? Wilcox isn’t one to tell people how to view his work. Hell, he doesn’t even like to call it “art.” One thing he will say is that he tries “to get the furthest distance away from the product that inspires me.”

Wilcox is probably the most soft-spoken rabble-rouser on Earth. Born and raised in the northeastern British city of Sunderland, Wilcox wasn’t an excellent artist, nor student, in school. He was “above average.” He went on to study art at the University of Edinburgh and the Royal College of Art before wading his way into the gig full time. He’s held only one other job, working at the famous Foyles bookstore — even that was too 9-to-5 for Wilcox.

Nowadays, he’s mostly getting commissions from an equally random group of people, from local governments to companies. The city council of Northamptonshire, a town known for its shoemaking, asked Wilcox to let loose on a pair of shoes to commemorate its legacy. He thought of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, clicking her ruby slippers to find her way back to Kansas. So, Wilcox built what he calls the world’s first functioning GPS shoes. Upload your destination via USB, and LEDs on the shoes will guide you home, Dorothy-style. The shoes, like most of his other works, took three months to make their way from blank page to functioning invention.

It’s easy to imagine how to use the GPS shoes. Skipping stones dipped in gold, each with their own custom carrying pouch — not so much. Which may elicit from many the reaction: It’s just art. Maybe, but Wilcox is hesitant to call it that. He thinks it would confine the piece and give the viewer unnecessary context.

Instead, just enjoy the anticipation, and skip the damn stone already.

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