Best Foot Forward: the Haptic Shoes that Tell You Where to Walk

The world’s first interactive footwear has been launched in India by Ducere Technologies. Known as Lechal, the footwear uses haptic feedback to provide what the company is calling “complete eyes-off and hands-off navigation”.

Available either as a shaped, rigid insole or a shoe that resembles a soft Ferrari, Lechal works with an iPhone or Android app to provide accurate guidance on where to walk, run or cycle. The user inputs their destination and the app works as a satnav, running in the background on their phone to feed instructions to the shoes.

When its time to turn a corner the shoes buzz to let the wearer know. The direction of the turn is indicated by which shoes buzzes – right shoe for a right turn and left shoe for a left turn.

These shoes could prove a brilliant way to explore new places – no more hastily checking maps or smartphones to figure out where you’re going. Instead, you’d be able to confidently stroll around enjoying the sights without the fear of getting lost or looking like a gullible tourist.

The accompanying app plays well into this; it has the option of saving and sharing routes, which could lead to a global database of great sightseeing, cycling or running paths that can be accessed by any Lechal owner. For any tourists the app can also serve as a personal tour guide, providing info about notable sights as you pass them.

The shoes also have some appealing extras for fitness fans, including a pedometer, calorie tracker and the option to create personalised goals and workouts. The app has been developed to recognise different activities’ calorie counts, and the obligatory sharing options are here so users can brag about their achievements.

One of the shoes’ coolest features is the ability to record gestures. A certain movement with your foot –  such as lifting your heel – could be set to mark a location, allowing you to record places of interest with little effort. Or you could even become Dorothy; tapping your heels together could set you on your way home.

Of course gestures like this need to be relatively subtle to become popular. If you need to do wildly exaggerated movements in order for it to register then few users will be prepared to make themselves look foolish to save a bit of time.

Unlike many wearable tech products that quickly become vapourware, Lechal is actually on its way to market, with the insole version pegged for launch on 7th March. Better yet, its actually going to be affordable, with a target price of less than $100. No word yet on when the shoe version will follow, but it is expected soon after.

The purchase of a shoe will also do some good. Lechal was originally designed for use by blind people and has a lot of benefits for the visually impaired, so Ducere plan to use some of the profits from each pair sold to subsidise a pair for someone in need.


Image courtesy of Lechal.


Why there are plans to wrap the world’s tallest building in fabric

As if the world’s tallest building wasn’t already a fairly prevalent sight on Dubai’s landscape, a think tank has proposed draping the building in a reflective fabric to make it more noticeable.

The group, OP-EN (Of Possibilities Engaging Novelty), has proposed the fabric covering which it says would be suspended from a support structure on the top of the tower as a temporary installation. Its plans show the Burj Khalifa tower, in Dubai, which stands at 828-metres tall covered in a “reflective super-lightweight and semi-transparent fabric”.

The concept has been named Exo-Burji and in a post on OP-EN’s website it is described as: “In the spirit of exploring creative potential in the public realm, Exo-Burj aims to create a fluid urban ambience by suspending a reflective fabric material around the 828-metre tower, complementing the structure’s reflective facade.”

The skyscraper holds at least 18 records, including highest nightclub, and was officially opened in 2010 after a period of six years of construction. OP-EN describes itself as an interdisciplinary creative practice with a focus on art, design and architecture that tries to seek the unfamiliar.

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The group visualises that the end result would increase the visual perspective of the city’s skyline as well as improving the tower’s symbol as an urban destination in the centre of the city. It also says it would create an artistic atmosphere on a vast architectural scale.

The proposed support structure to hold the fabric aloft is fan-shaped, circling the tower with the main point of connection coming from the spire of the building.

Visitors would be able to view the temporary installation from a distance – which would reflect the tower and its surroundings – but also walk up close to the fabric and experience it first-hand.

However if the – somewhat unlikely – project was to ever go ahead, the manufacturers would have to carefully look at the materials they use to create the covering as reflective buildings have caused serious problems elsewhere in the world.

In London, UK, an under-construction skyscraper’s curved shape caused heat from the sun to be bounced onto everything in its  shadow. This resulted in damage to nearby buildings and cars, and even resulted in one person frying an egg with the heat from the reflective rays.


Images courtesy of OP-EN.