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I'm in Toronto, Canada.
And Toronto is cold for a lot of the year.
Good winter boots are a necessity.
They've got to be warm, they've got to be waterproof,
but also, they've got to stop you going arse over apex
when you suddenly walk on a patch of ice.
This is WinterLab...!
and it's part of the Challenging Environment Assessment Laboratories
at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
And this is their tilting, frozen floor.
- If you want to find out whether people are at risk,
at risk of falling, at risk of a road accident,
at risk of something, you need to put them in a challenging environment
and see how they respond.
What we have is four modules for different things.
We have the world's most realistic driving simulator now.
When it rains in our simulator, it actually rains.
We also have StairLab, where we have people walk up and down stairs,
and we suddenly and unexpectedly move the room
and they have to grab the handrails
and we can see how effective the handrails are, or the stair design.
21,000 people in Ontario every winter, on average, end up in
our emergency rooms because they fall on the ice and snow.
So the purpose of WinterLab is so that we can do two things.
One is that we can test the boots, and inform consumers what they should buy
and the other is we can help companies and ourselves develop better boots.
- I know I'm harnessed in, but that is terrifying!
- It's an icebox really, it's insulated.
We can generate winds, we can actually make nice, white, fluffy snow,
we can control the air temperature very precisely
and we can control the temperature of the ice very precisely.
We actually have a group of... graduate students(!)
like every other university lab you've ever been to,
because they're not very expensive and they're sort of disposable(!)
who do this testing and because we want some uniformity.
- It's a good harness, very good harness.
- Now, in order to test the performance of shoes,
we choose to put WinterLab on top of a platform that we can gradually tip.
- It does feel ever so slightly like gravity is shifting.
- We tip it as you walk up and down until the moment that you slip.
We have an angle which we think is just acceptable.
It's seven degrees.
We actually take the minimum value of several people
if you can make seven degrees up and down comfortably,
we give you one snowflake.
- This is the good shoes, I can just, oh, okay, yeah.
No, I can literally just walk normally.
- At the moment, we've got a scale of three snowflakes
and that was because the first time we ever did this,
90 out of 100 boots failed to get one snowflake
and nothing got better than one snowflake
so to publish it as a five-snowflake scale looked a bit depressing.
We've already tested some prototypes for next year
and they're getting two and three snowflakes.
- That's fine, I put my foot down and it just stays where it is.
- We are really quite confident that eventually
we're going to be able to add some more snowflakes at the four and five level.
It raises another interesting point, and that is:
can you have too much friction?
We're a long way off that yet, but of course, more than half
the falls that you experience are people tripping up.
We will eventually decide whether a five-snowflake shoe is a good idea or not.
I'm really happy, in two years we've done two things.
One is that we've changed the buying habits of people
and the other is now the industry is improving the quality of boots
and we're helping them do that.
- Thank you very much to all the team at WinterLab
here at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
Pull down the links in the description
for more about them and their research.
I swear I'm not deliberately trying to do that.