Many of us have become so dependent on digital map tools — relying on specific, real-time instructions from Google or Siri to direct us, step by step, from point A to point B — that there is nostalgia for physical maps floating around out there.
But for those of you who believe there’s not enough technological wizardry guiding your every footfall: Good news! “Smartshoes" are reportedly on the way.
Lechal (pronounced “lay-chal”) shoes claim to be “the world’s first interactive haptic footwear.” Using a Bluetooth link to your Internet-connected smartphone, the shoes are designed to vibrate in ways that nudge you in the proper direction as you wander the world.
For example, suppose you’re planning a stroll to the nearest Chipotle restaurant. You would enter that destination into Google Maps and then wait for the physical feedback to arrive at your feet. If you’re supposed to turn right, you would get a right-foot buzz.
And if you depart from the correct path, you’re zapped with 340 volts until you get back on course. (Just kidding! It doesn’t do that at all. But since there already is a fitness tracker that shocks you for failing to meet your goals, it could be a potential feature.)
The smartshoes are aesthetically distinct in a way that strikes me as potentially appealing to people who want to let the world know they are wearing “smart” kicks — like Google Glass for feet. But Lechal also plans an insole option that will work with your footwear.
Aside from its electro-way-finding use, there are fitness apps, too: They track your steps to see how much you’re moving and how many calories you’re burning, for example. There’s even a social component that lets you share your fitness milestones with the Lechal community.
Lechal’s maker, Ducere Technologies, is based in India. The company started with the goal of helping the visually impaired by creating a product to supplement the walking cane. Somewhere during the development, the company realized there could be broader appeal.
The smartshoes will reportedly go on sale in September, priced at “more than $100 a pair.”
And if you’re among those skeptical of technology that tells you where to go, well, then … get lost!