One of the most powerful aspects of our vision is navigation. Walking on streets, through crowds, on uneven ground – being able to see what lies ahead or behind is indubitably crucial. And because we are lucky enough to live in an age aware of diversity, inclusion forms an important part of the decisions we make.
It is this quest for inclusion that has prompted Austria’s tech-innovation companies and the Graz University of Technology to come up with the novel idea of smart shoes that can help the blind and those with low vision in successfully navigating their way with a sense of independence and security.
The visionary product and how it works
Just like a car would, smart shoes come with a warning system. This consists of an ultra-bright LED and two sensors at the front of each shoe. The warning of obstacles comes in the form of vibrations and/or smartphone voice signals. The LED part of the shoe is for the ones among us with low vision – the brightness of the light-signal is still visible to them. The vibration gets stronger, the sound louder as you approach the obstacle.
And here’s the best part. The right and left shoe sensors can work separately, too. So if only your left shoe should detect the obstacle, you’ll either hear the sound warning only through your left earphone, or feel solely your left shoe vibrating. This will mean you can go right.
But what’s the range of detection?
The shoes can warn the user of obstacles up to 4 metres ahead, and this range can be adjusted using the shoe itself, or the smartphone app.
And if you do stop in front of an destination, say, a train station or a restaurant, the sensors will detect it, too, and vibrate to notify.
How much does this pair of shoes cost?
In Europe, where the shoes have been approved as ‘medical’ products for sale, the price currently is 3,800€ ($4,640). But because this product has been categorised as medical, getting a loan approved for these shoes is much easier than expected.
Are there any things the shoes can’t detect?
As ingenious as this invention of smart shoes is, it fails to detect potholes or descending stairs. However, experiments are going on as we speak and, hopefully, this feature will be out soon, too!
Does inclusion excite you?
If you liked this article, check out: Scientists Create Gloves That Can Translate Sign Language Into Speech