Over 285 million people in the world are visually impaired to one degree or another. One of the most important things for anyone with a disability is the need to be independent, at least as much as possible.
Anirudh Sharma, a 24 year old researcher in Bangalore, India, made it his goal to achieve that. He designed the first low-cost, unobtrusive, haptic shoe for the blind. The project has been named “Le Chal” which in Hindi means “Take Me There”.
Le Chal promises to take aid for the visually impaired to entirely new levels by integrating electronic devices and sensors into shoes, theoretically negating the need for canes or guide dogs. The shoes work in conjunction with a smartphone, which uses a GPS and map application. The user speaks his desired destination into the voice activated app, which finds the best route via the phone’s GPS system, and gives the user vibrational cues on how to get there. Both shoes contain a vibrating actuator that is inserted into the soles. When the smartphone detects that the user should turn left or right, the actuator in either the left or the right shoe will vibrate, alerting the wearer that it is time to turn. When the user comes within proximity of an object that could obstruct his path, the actuators on that side of the shoe begin to vibrate, alerting the user of the object’s location and the direction to navigate around it.
The Bluetooth shoes are currently being developed and tested at the L.V. Prasad Eye Institute in India, and are, currently unavailable for purchase. Before releasing the shoe to the public the developer, Anirudh Sharma, intends to finish fine-tuning the actuators to work with the GPS software.
See how the shoe works below and find out more about Le Chal here.