When you're out running, walking, or biking, it's inconvenient and potentially hazardous to keep your eyes glued to the map on your phone. Imagine if your shoes told you which way to go without you ever having to take your eyes off the road or sidewalk. That's the idea behind the Lechal smart shoes and insoles from Ducere Technologies.
The shoes sync over Bluetooth to an app that pulls your path from Google Maps. The shoes buzz to tell you which direction to turn. A buzzing right shoe means to hang a right. A buzzing left shoe means to go the other way. The shoes were originally designed to help people with visual impairments navigate more effectively, but the company's founders soon realized there could be a much wider market.
Potential uses for the Lechal go beyond just getting somewhere. They can also be used to send proximity alerts to phones, notifying tourists of interesting landmarks nearby. The footwear will alert you should you accidentally try to leave your phone behind so you don't get stuck out in the middle of nowhere. The shoes also aspire to work as a wearable fitness monitor, tracking steps and calories burned.
Keeping the insoles and shoes juiced up requires slipping a rechargeable battery into the very back of the insole or behind the heel of the shoes. The charger itself is kind of fancy. Dubbed "the world's first interactive charger," it's designed to give audio feedback as to its charging levels when you snap your fingers.
Interested buyers can sign up to be notified when preorders start. The shoes are expected to cost around $135/£80/AU$144 (a price that's in keeping with a high-end pair of athletic shoes) and ship this September. Ducere Technologies says sales to the general public will help subsidize Lechal footwear for the visually impaired.
This isn't the first time a shoe and GPS have gotten together to help people find their way. UK artist Dominic Wilson made a pair of prototype shoes in 2012 with a GPS in the heel and lights on the toes to direct walkers where to go. The haptic feedback of the Lechal shoes takes the concept a few steps further, keeping the wearer's eyes up and minimizing the distractions of the usual navigation technology options. People with exceptionally ticklish feet might want to pass, though.