For the blind, haptic feedback can be one of the greatest tools that can let them gain greater independence and freedom of movement. Seeing Eye dogs or walking canes have traditionally been used by the blind to navigate streets on their own though these methods are primitive and often offer unreliable results. Voice based navigation aids too can be disorienting and discomforting since street noise can blend in with sounds from the device and cause the user to confuse words and instructions. The Le Chal Haptic Feedback based Shoe by designer Anirudh Sharma looks to help the blind overcome daily challenges of navigating through a street on their own without relying on walking canes, Seeing Eye dogs and voice-based navigation devices.
With 2 US patents pending, the Le Chal Haptic Feedback based Shoe design extends the limitations of the blind by complementing their natural adaptability by using a language of vibrations. For the visually impaired, the device serves as a way finding aid with the word “Le Chal” standing for the command ‘takes me (there)’ in Hindi.
The most significant feature of Le Chal is its unobtrusive design which uses vibrations to deliver proximity and directional and information by condensing complex geographical navigational information into a series of vibration-based commands. Paired with a GPS enabled Android device through a wireless connection, the device requires the user to input a simple voice command into the cellphone and confirm the destination. After that, the user can return the cellphone to their pocket and the Le Chal Shoe would automatically sync itself to the phone.
The cellphone then processes the location in real time via Google Maps with its GPS transmitter keeping track of the movement of the user. When the user reaches a point where he or she needs to make a turn, the shoe provides a mild vibration as a feedback depending on the user’s proximity to the location. When the user is approaching a turn, the shoe gives off a weak vibration indicating that they need to make a turn. However, if the user ignores the feedback and continues to walk straight ahead, the shoe will give him a stronger vibration as feedback to let them know that they are near the turning point.
The overall proximity from the destination decides the strength of the vibration with the end navigation task receiving the strongest vibration. To help the user plan their next move at various navigational points, the Le Chal Haptic Feedback based Shoe can detect the location of the user to a distance of up to 10 feet thanks to a built-in proximity sensor.