Wearable technology: it counts our steps, tracks our distance, monitors our heart rates, records our sleeping patterns, and shares our progress with our social media friends. With the aid of our technology, we can prove to our friends and family that we did, in fact, ride our bicycles 7.25 miles, with 3 of those miles being uphill. We can look at the data recorded by our past selves and see if we really met every fitness goal. The technology that we have at our fingertips appears to be limitless as a new style, a new program, or new trend seems to pop up frequently in the market. The styles vary from bracelets, necklaces, watches, pins, clip-ons, and microchips placed in clothing items.
The target market for these monitors is always the athlete, the individual pushing themselves to reach their fitness goals and experience new heights. Rarely does a thought cross the mind (unless this part is just me), “What about the individuals that can’t run freely or ride bikes uphill? What use to they have for this technology?” Two young, Indian engineers must have been asking themselves a similar question because they’ve brought Lechal to the table, the shoe, and shoe insole, that is counting steps and commanding direction.
Lechal works just like any other fitness tracking band- it records your movement or distance as you walk, run, ride your bike, or drive in the car. It is paired with an app, giving you exclusive access to your fitness history. What makes Lechal unique is not the package itself, but the fact that it provides haptic feedback with the intent of making travel for the visually impaired safer and more reliable. Once the individual pins their destination into Google Maps, the app will communicate with Lechal: the shoes (or insoles) will vibrate, indicating what direction the user needs to move toward. If you need to move towards the right, the right shoe will vibrate. If you need to move toward the left, then the left shoe will vibrate. It may not be a replacement for a walking cane, but it could help the individual avoid getting lost when walking around outside.
This technology is useful for the everyday user as well, not just the visually impaired or the athlete. When you’re driving and you want Google Maps to provide you with direction, but you don’t want to listen to the app to talk to you, interrupting your music or podcast- In half a mile, turn left…. In a quarter of a mile, turn left…-then you can turn off the voice updates and turn on Lechal. Your shoes or insoles will vibrate in the direction that you have to turn, providing you with quiet instructions. Unfortunately, it cannot quiet backseat drivers.
The device is currently available for pre-orders, and there does not appear to be a set launch date. However, the design and functionality looks to be promising.