Haptic technology is taking shoes back to the future

New haptic wearable from India start-up a step in the right direction for navigation technology

Forget auto-lacing Nikes. A new technology from India called Lechal is about to revolutionize footwear across the world.

Named after the Hindi for “take me along,” the technology uses haptic or vibratory feedback to allow wearers a hands-free way to navigate the world around them. All users have to do is tether the shoe tech to their smartphone via Bluetooth, plan out a trip on their device using an app like Google Maps, and the shoe does the rest of the work, using various vibrations to direct the wearer to its destination.

After an early prototype was presented in 2011 as an inclusive response to navigation technologies already available to the visually impaired, creators Anirudh Sharma and Krispian Lawrence naturally realized other recreation, fitness, and health applications for the wearable technology. The commercial version of the product offers consumers the ability to count steps, track burnt calories and map runs. The tech’s potential for hands-free navigation also encourages safer commuting. It buzzes if the phone it’s tied to gets left behind, and users can gesture with their feet to drop pins on destinations they discover throughout their travels.

Still keeping with the accessibility-minded mandate that produced Lechal, the creators intend to use commercial profits to help get the technology on lesser-privileged feet that are in need.

The company currently offers two lines of Lechal products: shoes in various design and material options and colourways for men and women, and unisex polyurethane insoles that let users plug into the same technology with their analogue kicks.

Pre-orders for the products began in February last year, and according to a report from The Economic Times earlier this month, products will be available across the globe by November.