Google Maps on your feet: Smartshoes vibrate to tell you where to go

Lechal smartshoe
The Lechal smartshoes use Bluetooth technology  to connect to a smartphone and pull directions from Google Maps. Either left or right shoe will vibrate to show you when to take a turn and guide you to your destination. (Ducere Technologies)

There’s smartglasses and smartwatches. Now, there are smartshoes.

The Bluetooth-enabled Lechal shoes, designed by an Indian start-up called Ducere Technologies, can connect to a smartphone and pull out directions from Google Maps and direct you to the destination by vibrating one or the other shoe when it’s time to take a turn.

Who are these smartshoes for?

The idea behind the Lechal footwear is to help people who are visually challenged, according to the company’s Web site. The company says current devices designed to help the blind mainly rely on audio feedback, while Lechal shoes adopt what’s known as haptic feedback, which means it provides gentle vibrations, reducing audio distraction and becoming “perfect companion” to the white cane, according to the company. The white cane can help visually impaired individuals to detect obstacles, but is very limited in terms of navigation, orientation and directions.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Indian company is going to sell its smartshoes for more than $100 a pair starting in September. Krispian Lawrence, Ducere Technologies’ chief executive and co-founder,  said he expects to sell 100,000 pairs by March 2015.

“The shoes are a natural extension of the human body,” Lawrence told the WSJ. “You will leave your house without your watch or wristband, but you will never leave your house without your shoes.”

Lawrence and Anirudh Sharma, graduates respectively from the University of Michigan and MIT, founded Ducere Technologies in 2011 and have since grown the company to 50 employees.

According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide; 90 percent of them live in developing countries.

The smartshoes are compatible with iOS, Android and Windows smartphones. Besides proving navigation through Google Maps, the shoes will also alert you if your phone is not detected within proximity, measure your activity and the distance you’ve traveled. The shoes’ insole has all the electronics located at the heel within a removable module, and part of the insole can be replaced when they are worn out. The shoes, manufactured in China, will be available in September for between $100 and $150.

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