An Indian company has come up with a sleek solution to wearable technology that is entirely useful and doesn't involve reading any tiny screens. The Bluetooth-enabled Lechal smart shoes vibrate to give people directions and tell them where to turn as they travel along.
The shoes sync with a user's phone, and an app that piggybacks on Google Maps allows the shoes to keep track of where they're going. Once you have input your destination and chosen a route, you can tuck your phone away and run or walk along with the left or right shoe buzzing to nudge you into turning.
The shoes have been designed and developed by a company called Ducere based in the city of Secunderabad in India, although they will be manufactured in China. As with many technological innovations that have found their way into our homes and onto our bodies, the smart shoes were originally designed for medical purposes -- in this case to guide the visually impaired (in Hindi Lechal means "take me along").
It occurred to the company while it was testing the shoes that they would be useful in numerous scenarios -- for runners, mountain bikers or for tourists trying to find their way around a new city -- and so they will be produced and marketed to all consumers, as well as the perfect accompaniment to a white cane. As a bonus, the shoes will also fulfil the role of traditional fitness tracker by keeping tabs on your distance travelled and calories burned.
The prototype shoes currently up for pre-order look pretty awesome as sports shoes go, but if you're not keen on the design you can always opt for the Lechal smart in-soles and slide them inside your own shoes instead. You can also vary the strength of the vibration, which will hopefully prevent them from setting off anyone with ticklish feet.
The shoes will be available in racing car colours -- black and red -- and will be priced between $100 (£59) and $150 (£88). According to the Wall Street Journal, the company already claims to have orders for 25,000 pairs and expects to sell 100,000 by March. The company has already received backing from angel investors but is now looking to raise at least another $4 million in funding for marketing, as well as searching for not-for-profit organisations to team up with in order to try and offer the shoes cheaper to visually impaired customers.