Lechal’s haptic footwear could help the visually impaired

Invisible wearables + inclusivity = ?

Everything is becoming “smart”; even our clothes are. Fitness and health-tracking wearables are becoming popular but not everyone likes the idea of wearing bulky and obvious gadgets on their wrist. Smart clothing could be the innovation that makes wearables hit the mainstream. Smart clothes are quite new but already there are shirts and bras that track your heart rate.

The founders of Lechal, a startup from India, believes they’ve figured out the perfect smart clothing for the future: shoes. We all wear them, so they don’t stand out as a strange gadget. Lechal do produce smart shoes but the most intriguing creation is their smart insoles rather than smart shoes, so nearly any pair of shoes you already own could become “smart” and nobody would know.

Lechal’s smart insoles can be trimmed to fit any shoe making them unisex and very practical. They contain the Lechal pod, which is the connected device also used in their line of shoes. The device counts your steps, which you would expect from most wearable fitness trackers, but Lechal sees that as a minor feature.

Lechal insoles are part fitness tracker and part navigational tool. When paired with the Lechal smartphone app, the insoles pay attention to your route when navigating using your smartphone. The direction you need to be heading is communicated to the wearer using haptic feedback. Left turn up ahead? Your left foot will gently vibrate. No looking at your phone and no checking a bulky gadget; you’re just walking and seem to know the way.

We think this sounds like a great navigational tool for anyone interested in subtle tech, but Lechal see their shoes and insoles as accessibility products. Visually impaired people can’t take advantage of many fitness trackers and navigational tools that others take for granted. By using haptic feedback for directions, visually impaired users can navigate new places after using the accessibility features on their smartphone.

The vibrations don’t just tell you left or right. There are different vibrations to orientate the user, send them in the right direction, and provide information about upcoming corners and their curvature. It’s a two-way system too as foot gestures can be used to tag locations, check if you’re going the right way, and even start and stop workouts.

We’re fans of using inclusive technology to improve accessibility. We also like the trend towards invisible smart clothing that you can wear at any time without standing out. Lechal’s insoles are available for £139.99 on their website and there’s free shipping for a limited time.

Images © Lechal