Let your Footwear Show you the Way

Imagine being guided to where you want to go! Nah. You really don;t need your handset to help you locate the location you want to go. Your footwear shall exactly lead you to the address you not acquainted with! Not long ago, the best way we had to find a place was to stop over and ask people around. But things have changed and how! Thanks to two tech geeks (Krispian Lawrence, graduate from University of Michigan and practicing patent lawyer in US and Anirudh Sharma, currently studying in MIT), your pair of shoes shall be your guide.

As the communication note from the company states, the duo came up with a thought of helping the visually impaired people in India (the blind capital of the world), which has the most number of visually impaired people as compared to any other country. The thought was to make them independent and capable of moving out on their own without any assistance. With this thought a stringent research search for innovation started for product that will help the visually impaired in mobility in a non-intrusive manner. This search of theirs ended in innovating a shoe, aptly named as ‘Le Chal’ that is smart and has a capability to guide the visually impaired with direction through haptic based feedback mechanism.

At present people with limited or no vision, depend either on walking canes, which help them detect obstructions, or seek help from friends and other people for assistance, or using voice-based navigation aids. The existing form of voice-based navigation aids can be very distracting for the blind as they mostly depend on their sense of hearing. Also, such devices are prohibitively expensive to buy.

Le-Chal is a way finding aid for the visually impaired that uses a language of vibrations, complementing their natural adaptations and extends their limitations

The unobtrusive design of Le Chal is its most significant feature. The system comprises of a mechanism that condenses complex geographical navigational information and lets the user feel the directional and proximity information through vibrations.

But when the shoe was finally developed the final cost came up to about Rs. 4000 – 5000/- which they thought was not all visually impaired people would afford and hence the geeks thought of making the shoes as a lifestyle product for anyone to use. In its new avatar LeChal is classy lifestyle shoe for normal people, which helps them find their destination with ease as well helps with many more interactive features. Whether one is travelling intercity or travelling abroad it need not ask directions, it just guides them seamlessly on its own making it the most trusted friend.

So when a normal person buys the pair of shoes, the company manufacturing LeChal subsidies the cost of the shoes meant for visually impaired. Going forward the innovators see the shoes meant for visually impaired getting completely subsidized by the sales of shoes meant for normal users.

Apart from that they also share a vision of bring out technology innovation coming from India. Hence to make their dream come true and help millions of Indians, they have chosen India as their karma bhoomi to give birth to the innovation that is world’s first.

How it works

  • The user speaks the destination using a GPS enabled Android device. After the location is confirmed the device is kept back in pocket! No further direct interaction with the cellphone.
  • The shoe and phone maintain a wireless connection.
  • The GPS transmitter within the cellphone gets real-time location using Google Maps. The built-in compass in the GPS module calculates the direction user is walking in. When the turning point is approached a mild vibrational feedback activated in the shoe informs the user the direction he or she needs to turn to.
  • The strength of the vibration depends upon the overall proximity from the destination, that is, vibration is weak in the beginning and is incrementally stronger at the end of the navigation task.
  •  The built-in proximity sensor of the shoe can detect up to 10 feet, informing the user of the surroundings and allowing him or her to make decisions and plan the next move.

This just gets me thinking that if your footwear can guide you to the location you want to visit, very soon we shall also have a device which shall gauge what is going on in our mind and our fingers would automatically just key in the stuff for us!

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