Navigating urban spaces – particularly when those are unknown or unfamiliar – has become a matter of walking around with your face glued to your phone’s screen. There are many circumstances when walking in such a way is unsafe – because you miss cues from your surroundings (e.g., an approaching car), or because it marks you as a stranger. Several years ago, Ducere Technologies developed a footwear prototype that used haptic feedback to guide the wearer. The technology was initially designed to assist visually impaired people with getting around, and while that remains a driving motivation, the technology has wider applications in the general market, such as:
- Guiding a visitor to a city around its streets with turn-by-turn directions, based on where the wearer wants to go.
- Notifying the wearer of a nearby landmark or interesting place (which you then check on your phone).
- Sending a notification to a friend or colleague to meet you at a particular place – and letting the footwear guide you there.
It has been a while since I checked up on progress, but the insoles edition from Ducere – called Lechal – are now available to order from Amazon. There is also the option of buying a buckle and pod pack for connecting to the outside of other footwear.
For more on the backstory and technology, see Lechal.