Washington - The Bluetooth-enabled Lechal shoes can connect to a smartphone and pull out directions from Google Maps and direct you to the destination by vibrating one or the other shoe when it’s time to take a turn.


Designed by an Indian start-up called Ducere Technologies, the idea behind Lechal footwear is to help people who are visually challenged, according to the company’s website.

The company says other devices designed to help the blind mainly rely on audio feedback, while Lechal shoes adopt what’s known as haptic feedback, which means it provides gentle vibrations, reducing audio distraction and becoming the “perfect companion” to the white cane. The white cane can help visually impaired individuals to detect obstacles, but is limited in terms of navigation, orientation and directions.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Ducere Technologies is going to sell its smartshoes for more than $100 (R1 068) a pair from next month. Chief executive and co-founder Krispian Lawrence said he expected to sell 100 000 pairs by March.

“The shoes are a natural extension of the human body,” Lawrence told the journal. “You will leave your house without your watch or wristband, but you will never leave your house without your shoes.”

Lawrence and Anirudh Sharma, graduates respectively from the University of Michigan and MIT, founded Ducere Technologies in 2011 and have since grown the company to 50 employees.

According to the World Health Organisation, 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide; 90 percent of them live in developing countries.

The smartshoes are compatible with iOS, Android and Windows smartphones. Besides providing navigation through Google Maps, the shoes will also alert you if your phone is not detected within proximity, measure your activity and the distance you’ve travelled.

The shoes’ insole has all the electronics located at the heel within a removable module, and part of the insole can be replaced when they are worn out. The shoes, manufactured in China, will be available in September for between $100 and $150. – Washington Post