You know how wearable computers have always sounded cool, but in practice strapping a big computer to your face seemed a little bit impractical? Well, here’s a slightly more sensible alternative that you can wear without fear of reprisal or feeling self-conscious: The smartshoe. Developed by Ducere Technologies, and available for just $100-150, the Lechal smartshoe is surprisingly comparable to Google Glass — though, of course, it’s not quite as good as capturing point-of-view videos of your loved ones or extreme sports.
The Lechal smartshoe comes in two flavours: A complete pair of shoes with Lechal insoles, or a “barebones” package of two insoles that you can slip into your own shoes. The smartshoe connects to your iOS, Android, or Windows Phone device via Bluetooth. The insole contains the usual slew of sensors that you’d expect from a wearable computer, allowing the companion app to accurately track how many steps you’ve taken, how many calories you’ve burnt, and so on. What truly sets the Lechal apart from a fitness band, though, is that each insole can vibrate.
When you first slip on a pair of Lechal smartshoes, you pair it with a companion app on your smartphone. This app does the usual health tracking stuff, you can also plan a route on the app and send it to your smartshoes. Then, while you’re walking, running, or cycling around, your shoes will vibrate to indicate which direction you should turn. This is obviously a much nicer way of interacting with Google Maps than having to pull your smartphone out of your pocket, and in some cases it might even be preferable to a head-mounted display like Google Glass. This kind of haptic feedback is perfect for people with vision loss, too.
The promo video also indicates that you’ll be able to interact with your smartshoes with gestures — as in, you might tap your toe on the ground to record a waypoint, or to pause your current training routine. Clearly, though, with sensors, haptic feedback, and smartphone integration, there are a lot of cool things that you could do with a pair of smartshoes. They might vibrate when you walk past a store with a special offer, for example, or automatically communicate with nearby smartshoe wearers so that you can find an exercise partner.
The Lechal smartshoes and insoles will go on sale in September, starting at around $100. They are primarily being released in India, but you should be able to pick up a pair in the US and Europe. The shoes are powered by removable and rechargable lithium-polymer batteries that should be good for a few days of use. Personally, as long as it’s possible to create third-party apps to use the sensors and haptics in weird and wonderful ways, I am a lot more excited to equip a pair of smartshoes than a “conventional” wearable computer like Glass or Android Wear.