Sunday, February 23, 2014

Let Your Feet Take You Where They May - Literally

This haptic footwear, called Lechal, guides you by buzzing your feet.  Really.
The word haptic means pertaining to the sense of touch. Haptic technology, or haptics, is a tactile feedback technology which takes advantage of the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions to the user. Today, haptic technology is built into many devices including smartphones that vibrate when you touch a button, game controllers that provide feedback as "virtual reality" or "augmented reality."
Anirudh Sharma, a researcher at Hewlett-Packard Labs in Bangalore, India, worked to create a shoe that would provide tactile feedback for the blind. Last week Sharma showcased a working prototype of the "Lechal" haptic shoe, and it is targeted toward the general public. Lechal means "left behind" in Hindi.

Available for purchase will be both the complete shoe and a set of polyurethane insoles that may be placed inside any existing shoe.

The insole is paired, communicates, with the user's smartphone via Bluetooth. Synchronized with an app and mapping technology, the shoes or insoles will guide the wearer by vibrating either the left shoe, to indicate a left turn, or the right shoe to indicate a right turn.  

The shoes will be produced by Ducere Technologies, and will be antibacterial and washable. The shoes and insoles are provided with with a batteries and a USB charger that respond to audio cues such as finger snaps, to indicate the battery charge level. A single charge is claimed to provide three days of use.

In addition to navigation, the product has obvious fitness tracking application to count steps, and should be able to vibrate to notify the user if they are leaving their mobile phone behind.

Pricing has yet to be announced. Preorders will be available on March 7. 
- David J. Katz