It is being touted as the next big thing in wearable technology and the best part is, it is of Indian provenance. After smart glasses and smart watches, it is time to welcome smart shoes into our lives. Though Google Glass may still be out of reach for those of us in India, we can definitely get our hands on the smart shoes made by Secunderabad-based company Ducere Technologies. Called Lechal (which means ‘take me along’ in Hindi), these shoes sync with smartphones through an app to provide users with a variety of information — from directions to your destination to the number of calories you have burnt.
The app helps the shoes connect to the GPS-based app Google Maps, and directions are thereby relayed to the user through vibrations in either the left or right shoe. The app can keep track of your fitness targets, the distance you cover and routes you travel frequently.
It all started in 2011, when MIT and University of Michigan graduates Anirudh Sharma and Krispian Lawrence met through a common friend. “We both love tinkering and playing with technology and building products,” says Lawrence, CEO and co-founder, Ducere Technologies. When their pet project of a haptic feedback-based shoe began taking shape for real, both Lawrence and Sharma quit their jobs to start Ducere Technologies as a two-person company in an apartment in Secunderabad.
“I was working in the US as a patent lawyer and Anirudh was working at HP Labs in Bengaluru at the time. I convinced him to quit his job and start the company with me,” he adds.
The initial drafts of the product were meant to address accessibility problems faced by the visually challenged. While canes help them identify obstacles, they can’t help the visually challenged with navigation; and other devices that assist them rely on audio feedback, which can be difficult to follow in noisy and congested areas. The Lechal shoe works on the concept of haptic feedback, which means that it provides directions through vibrations, whose intensity can be customised to indicate an upcoming turn, whether it is 500 metres or 50 metres away. But once they started testing the product and its range of applications, the duo realised it could have a wider appeal. “While it was initially designed to assist the visually challenge