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The next step in wearables? $100 vibrating smartshoes that can help the blind

From headsets and smartwatches to fitness bands and smart-bras, technology companies are exploring all sorts of ways to make devices wearable, although not all of these will come to market. Some of these may, in some form, eventually replace the smartphones and tablets that we carry with us today, but some are designed to complement them, adding features and connectivity to open up new possibilities and, perhaps, to make life a bit easier.

That’s certainly the thinking behind the Lechal smartshoes developed by India’s Ducere Technologies. “The shoes are a natural extension of the human body,” said the company’s co-founder and CEO, Krispian Lawrence. “You will leave your house without your watch or wristband, but you will never leave your house without your shoes.”

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the Bluetooth-enabled shoes connect to an app on your phone that uses Google Maps. Once you’ve chosen where you want to go on the map, either the left or right shoe will vibrate as you walk, indicating where you need to turn.

As you might expect, the shoes also incorporate sensors for fitness applications, which can record how far you’ve traveled and indicate how many calories you’ve burned through on a walk, jog or run.

The name ‘Lechal’ means ‘take me along’ in Hindi, and was not chosen at random. The shoes were originally developed to help the blind to find their way; as Lawrence points out, a walking cane can help them to detect obstacles, but it cannot help them to navigate, especially in unfamiliar locales. “That’s where we come in and fill the void,” he said.

Ducere is not alone in exploring wearable technology solutions to help those with visual impairments. Earlier this month, we reported on Microsoft’s efforts to develop a 'smart headband' to help blind people to 'see' the world around them through audio instructions and alerts. 

While the Microsoft system remains a research project for now, Ducere’s product will soon go on sale. Available either as complete shoes or removable insoles, they will be available to purchase in September and will be priced around $100-$150 USD. The company is also in the process of establishing relationships with not-for-profit organizations to sell the smartshoes to blind and visually impaired persons at a discounted rate.

The company says that its shoes will be compatible with Apple, Android and Windows devices.  

Source: The Wall Street Journal | images via Ducere

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