Shoegaze: A Look at Lechal, the Footwear of the Future
JANUARY 27, 2016 • Blog Post • By PAPER Magazine
IN THIS ARTICLE
- Lechal smart shoes are set to revolutionize the way we navigate on foot, using buzzes and pulses to direct your walking without having to look at a map
A startup in India has made a smart shoe that combines GPS, a fitness tracking device and phone locator all in one
Imagine if the next time you and your friends decide to meet for dinner at that blogger-approved new restaurant in that out-of-the-way neighborhood, you could track each others trips and help make sure no one gets lost with the help of your shoes. Thanks to Lechal, a smart sneaker developed by Hyderabad, India-based Ducere Technologies, that idea is now a reality.
In an era where the Internet of Things is becoming increasingly more integrated into peoples’ everyday lives—we use our watches to send messages, rely on apps to change our thermostats and program bracelets to track our exercise—Lechal stands apart for its commitment to both innovation and social responsibility. Created in 2011 by Krispian Lawrence and Anirudh Sharma, who met while Lawrence was working as a patent lawyer in the U.S. and Sharma was a researcher at HP Labs in Bangalore, the company’s name means “take me along” in Hindi. Originally designed to help the visually-impaired navigate, these shoes now serve a wider market that takes advantage of the footwear’s many functions. Still committed to their initial aim, however, Lechal uses a portion of its proceeds to subsidize a pair of shoes for a visually impaired individual who is not otherwise able to afford them.
The technology comes in the form of stainless steel pods that use haptic feedback (or information transmitted by your foot’s movements), which then connect your shoes to your smartphone and a Lechal app via Bluetooth. The pods come either clipped on the side of a pair of Lechal shoes or on the bottom of insoles that customers can insert into a pair of their own favorite kicks.
3 ways Lechal shoes help you find your way
- Navigation: Program a destination in the app and receive vibrations on your left or right shoe telling you where to turn based on directions from Google Maps. And when you’re travelling, get notifications on your phone of interesting landmarks when you’re nearby. Drop a pin to share your location with friends so you don’t get lost en route to that dinner. One of the best parts? It works even when you don’t have Internet connectivity so you can head off in the wilderness or touch down in a foreign country without stress.
- Fitness: Record steps taken, calories burned and distance traveled during workouts (or going about your everyday life). Create fitness goals and meet them with Lechal acting as your virtual trainer. Select walking, running or cycling routes that are particularly suited to helping you achieve your exercise objectives.
- Interaction: Get an alert to help you find a lost phone, modulate the vibration intensity of your shoes and use voice commands to make selections on the app.
While there have been other forays into making smart shoes (Aetrex came out with a model that helped track wearers with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and a U.K. artist named Dominic Wilsondesigned a pair with GPS in 2012), not to mention countless fitness-tracking devices and apps, Lechal gets its edge by combining these two uses (along with interactivity), having a socially-conscious business model and remaining functional off-line. The last of which makes it poised to have a particularly big impact when it comes to travel.
Bring your own wearable
Its other subtle advantage? The insoles.
One of the biggest criticisms to hit wearables has been their clunky, conspicuous design (think of the “Glasshole” memes poking fun at Google Glass wearers). By allowing customers to take advantage of Lechal technology without having to forsake their favorite pair of Nike Air Maxes or a new pair of over-the-knee Miu Miu boots, Lechal has created a product that people actually want to use. And they are. The first round of shoe designs has sold out, although the site says pre-orders for the second round will begin soon. Meanwhile, unisex insoles are available for $159.99.
It’s a brave new footwear world.
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