For today's smartphone-wielding urbanite, wandering aimlessly around the city streets is something of a rarity. There's Google Maps for when we don't know where to turn, ATM locators for when we need cash and then countless apps to tell us where to spend it. Looking to draw our eyes away from our smartphone screen and onto the world around us is Dhairya Dand, whose SuperShoes insoles use tickling patterns to communicate these typical smartphone functions to your feet.
The silicone insoles developed by Dand are flexible and can be placed inside a regular pair of shoes. Each sole sports an onboard microcontroller, a Bluetooth low-energy chip, a capacitive pad under the big toe, and three vibrotactile motors placed underneath the smaller toes.
Users register for the online platform ShoeCentral, where they record their interests, such as favorite foods, people, places to shop and hobbies. By pairing with the user's smartphone, the SuperShoes then act as a tour guide, tickling both feet when they have a suggestion for a new place to try as the user travels around the city, and improving their understanding of their interests as they go.
Aside from alerting you to a hot new Chinese restaurant around the corner, the SuperShoes can act as a simple navigation tool. Before setting off, you enter your destination on the smartphone app and the vibrotactile motors will deliver a tickle to either your left or right foot, advising you on which way to turn.
The app can also be synched to your calendar and to-do-list, meaning that it can devise new walking routes for when you have a little spare time or tickle both feet to remind you to take out the trash.
The SuperShoes aren't the first time we've seen technology find its way into footwear. The Fraunhofer Institute has developed prototypes for a shoe that provides real-time feedback on jogging technique, while Stockholm's KT Royal Institute of Technology has produced footwear that tracks firefighters' location when GPS fails.
While the SuperShoes are more geared toward everyday use for the average Joe, Dand tells us he has no immediate plans to bring them to market. They are among a number of left-field creations Dand has conjured up as a researcher at MIT's Media Lab, such as smart ice cubes that track your alcohol consumption and repurposing e-waste as kids' toys. He says the idea for the SuperShoes was born out of the overbearing nature of today's technology.
"I'm frustrated with the way smartphones, [Google] glass and the other wearables take over my life, I yearn for the wonder and beauty of reality, the serendipity of discovery," Dand tells Gizmag. "However I do acknowledge the benefits of a digital life and hence the shoes seemed as the perfect interface, our feet are the interface between our body and the earth."
You can learn more about Dand's vision in the video below. And if you're looking for something along the same line as his SuperShoes, but that you can actually purchase, check out the Lechal haptic shoes and insoles.
Source: Dhairya Dand
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