How Nike turned the shoe drop into a high-tech treasure hunt

About a hundred kick-hungry sneakerheads marched into Washington Square Park, smartphones held high, panning from side to side, on a late June afternoon in New York City. It was a mix of faces: parents, early high schoolers, 20-something urbanites. They paced in droves, pushing strollers, scooting atop bicycles, coasting on electric skateboards. Most strutted in sneakers so clean they looked as if they were just pulled out of the box.

Seconds later, they all took off sprinting.

It looked...

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