Forget Google Glass or Jawbone Up, the next wave in wearable tech might just be a smart shoe from India. The Lechal, meaning “take me along” in Hindi, has a Bluetooth enabled shoe insert that hooks up with Google Maps and buzzes to let you know which way to turn on your chosen route.
Created by Ducere Technologies Pvt, the shoe hooks up with an app that syncs with Google Maps, tracks your steps and counts your calories burned. The shoe itself can be used for jogging around town. However, the Lechal has much wider applications than that. The insert fits inside pretty much any shoe in your closet. It can be used for hands-free biking, hiking, walking, tourists not wanting to look down at a map every five seconds as well.
Users can also drop a pin on the map on their phone to meet up with others at a certain destination. The shoes apply haptic feedback to guide the wearer at the right turn to meet up with friends or to get wherever they need to be. The Lechal footwear also comes with something called Smart Assist, which alerts you if your phone is not in close proximity.
The original idea for the shoe was actually to help the visually impaired navigate the world around them. About 90 percent of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries, according to the World Health Organization; around 20 percent in India alone.
It is not actually the first smart shoe tech, but it is the first to take on navigation. Aetrex created a smart shoe to track people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia a couple of years back, but they did not apply it to haptic learning, navigation or personal fitness.
The idea and design for the Lechal came from two American educated Indian engineers, Krispian Lawrence and Anirudh Sharma, who went back to India and formed Ducere in the newly formed state of Telengana in 2011. The Lechal is Ducere’s first product, and is expected to retail for around $100 to $150 this September.