Static electricity is what allows you to rub a balloon and stick it to your sweater. Now, a company named Grabit has developed machines that pick up and manipulate materials using the same electroadhesion idea. The company is already supplying robots to the sportswear manufacturer, Nike, which invested in Grabit a few years ago. Now the robots have arrived in factories and are helping to produce uppers of sneakers. Software “decides” the best way to stack the pieces of the upper and then lights up portions of a glass table, showing its human partner where to set things down. It can take a human worker 10 to 20 minutes to arrange the pieces of the upper, but Grabit’s machine does it in 50 to 75 seconds. Bottom line, you are likely to see lots of robot-made sneakers in your future. Adidas also has recently experimented with using 3-D printers to build the midsoles of some of its running shoes.