New Delhi: The latest in wearable technology isn't about a smartwatch or a jacket, rather it's about your feet.
Secunderabad (Andhra Pradesh) based Ducere Technologies has launched the haptic footwear under their wearable technology brand Lechal (meaning "take me there" in Hindi) that helps the visually impaired navigate from one place to another.
Designed for the visually-impaired, the Lechal shoes can be easily synced to your smartphone and will buzz you to tell you when to turn left or right. “As you walk, it vibrates on the side that you want to turn on. So if you want to turn left, it would vibrate on the left side, and a right turn means it would vibrant on the right side,” the company says.
“You set a destination, put your phone back into your pocket and just start walking,” said Krispian Lawrence, co-founder of Lechal. Sensors built into the insert and shoes vibrate to tell you where to turn. “It's very intuitive,” Lawrence said. “The vibrations are light — like a tap on your shoulder.” The vibrations become longer as the turn gets closer.
Basically there are two Lechal products – a complete set of shoes and polyurethane insoles that can be put inside existing shoes. The system consists of a smartphone app connected via Bluetooth to either the Lechal shoes or to a set of polyurethane insoles that can be put inside existing shoes. The shoes or insoles contain a haptic actuator that gives feedback (vibrations) to tell a wearer which way to turn to reach their destination.
All the electronics is located inside the insole which can be easily removed. Each module has a weight threshold of 500kgs.
The shoes can be paired to phones running iOS, Android and Windows devices and are expected to be priced around $100 (nearly Rs 6000).
Putting the navigation system in shoes allows an individual to keep both hands free and lets the person listen to what's going on.
The technology is beneficial for athletes too as it makes easy for them to monitor calories being burned and distance traveled, besides planning a route based on how long you want to exercise.
The founders of the company – Anirudh Sharma, and Krispian Lawrence – have announced that the production version of the Lechal will soon be available for preorders.
Ducere Technologies claim that the shoes and insoles are antibacterial and washable, as long as the battery/electronics module is removed first. They come with a two-battery USB charger that responds to audio cues such as finger snaps, by emitting an audio tone of its own that indicates the charge level of the lithium-polymer batteries. The company says one charge can last three days-worth of use.
According to its founders, for every pair of shoes that someone that isn't visually impaired buys, another pair would be subsidized for a person that's blind.