It’s a digital world we live in, but has focusing on the screen taken on a life of its own? One inventive man thought so, and he set out to change the way we navigate around town by focusing on shoes.
MIT Media Lab researcher Dhairya Dand came up with the idea of shoe navigation because he thought “Today we immerse in our digital lives through smartphones. We don’t get lost anymore, we don’t wander, wonder and discover.” And how often have you found yourself in that exact scenario? Eyes on the scene to see where you’re going without noticing where you are? For me it wasn’t until I had my phone stolen that I noticed how entrapped I was. Dand’s idea was simple – a pair of shoes that does the navigating for you and allows your eyes to wander.
The shoes would be connected to your phone, or to your phone’s map, via app. The shoes guide you to your destination by tickling your toes – “[L]eft toe tickles – turn left, right toe tickles – turn right, no tickle – keep going, both tickle repeatedly – reached destination, both tickle once – recommendation, both tickle twice – reminder,” Dand wrote. For recommendations or reminders extra tingles can be programmed into the shoes. Dand called the shoes ‘super shoes’. The super shoes use small motors for directional tickling, a microcontroller, and a low-power Bluetooth transmitter that wireless connects the insoles with the user’s smartphone.
Beyond getting from point A to B, the super shoes have other super functions. The shoes have a built in guide pointing out landmarks. They offer a subtle reminder so you can check off your ‘to do’ list without having to backtrack. And if you’re under time constraints the super shoes can signal to you when you need to head back from your leisurely stroll. “The novel feature of the SuperShoes is that it can instill ‘acts of random serendipity’ — suggest a different route to work in the morning,” wrote blogger Syuzi Pakchyan. In addition to all the bells and whistle, SuperShoes could mean a more alert public. Screens are proven to be a dangerous distraction as we all have certainly either experienced or witnessed.
The SuperShoes are still being developed, but it certainly is a cool idea. If the shoes hit markets you can expect to see it as an insert to slip into your shoes and connect to your phone’s navigation. I personally would love to see what could happen if you paired the SuperShoes with Google Glasses – one can dream, right?