I can’t say I saw this coming. Amongst all the hubbub over wearable technology and Internet-connected things, I never once heard about shoes. Sure, Nike included Nike+ hardware in their shoes for a time, and produced a dongle for a separate line of shoes to track distance, but the Lechal smartshoe is a different beast entirely.
It’s actually smart.
Developed by Ducere Technologies, the Lechal smartshoe will be ready to take the world by storm to the tune of $100-$150. What do you get for your hard-earned cash? The bluetooth-enabled kicks will sync with Google Maps through a mobile application, and buzz when it is time to turn. Really. Just set your route and let the vibration of either your left or right foot dictate your next move.
The actual shoes are… not pretty, but the company will also be selling insoles with the same technology. In addition to route guidance, the shoes can also be used to track burnt calories and distance with greater fidelity.
The question is, were people asking for these shoes?
I applaud the innovation, but I was at a loss for why these shoes were developed until I read the Wall Street Journal story detailing them. Apparently, the founder of Ducere Technologies initially developed the Lechal to aid the blind – as a means of cane replacement. In fact, Lechal literally means “take me along” in Hindi. However, after testing the shoes, Ducere felt that the shoes could be successful in other markets.
The Lechal shoe is a fantastic idea to aid the blind – obviously a few more sensors could go a long way towards making them even more useful, but this first step is encouraging. It really is wonderful thinking about how many people’s lives are being improved by innovate and progressive technology.
On the other hand, I’m not quite sure who else will spring for these. Ducere plans to sell 100,000 pairs by next March, which is a lofty goal. Will there be a market for lightly buzzing shoes when mobile applications can do the job just as easily? Especially because the shoes need a nearby phone to operate, I’m not so sure.
Regardless, I refuse to criticize a company that is making great strides towards improving lives, and understands that impact too – Ducere is partnering with non-profits and eye institutes to sell the Lechal at a lower cost to the visually-impaired.