Haptic GPS sneakers for the visually impaired


The world can be a pretty difficult place to navigate when you lack the ability to see it. There are many visually impaired people across the globe, with some figures claiming up to 40 million individuals affected. While walking canes and seeing-eye dogs can be a huge help, [Anirudh] of Multimodal Interactions Group, HP Labs India, and some students at the College of Engineering in Pune, India (COEP) have been hard at work constructing a haptic navigation system for the blind.

[Anirudh Sharma and Dushyant Mehta] debuted their haptic feedback shoe design during an MIT Media Lab Workshop hosted at COEP. In its current form, Google Maps and GPS data is sourced from an Android device, which is fed to an Arduino via Bluetooth. The Arduino then activates one of four LEDs mounted on a shoe insert that are used to indicate which direction the individual should travel in order to safely reach their destination. While the current iteration uses LEDs, they will be swapped out for small vibrating motors in the final build.

We’re always fans of assistive technology hacks, and we think this one is great. The concept works well, as we have seen before, so it’s just a matter of getting this project refined and in the hands shoes of those who need it.

Stick around for a quick video about the project filmed at the MIT/COEP event.


  1. Rick says:

    It looks similar to the feelspace belt that was around a few years ago (http://feelspace.cogsci.uni-osnabrueck.de/en/technology_01.html).

    Most GPS devices have text-to-speech built in, but combining it with a haptic directional indicator is a good improvement, although the belt has greater precision than this shoe insert.

  2. Bob says:

    The feelspace belt points north. That’s it, that’s all. Pretty useless without the ability to see to relate north to a map.

    These shoes however are awesome.

  3. Jeditalian says:

    can i wear these on an airplane?

  4. Lahiru says:

    Cool project! Keep on hacking! :)

  5. Richard says:

    Reminds me of the CabBoots by Martin Frey.


  6. yeah says:

    Nice idea, but instead of the blinking lights, how about some tilting shoe soles, guiding you automatically in the right direction: http://www.freymartin.de/en/projects/cabboots

  7. tallin32 says:

    As someone in their apparent target market, I’m not entirely sure I see (har har) how these would be useful. I’d rather see the research and innovation going into bettering the accessibility of mainstream smartphones and eBook readers … but that’s just me.

  8. Ralow says:

    awesome project would like to see a final version of it soon

  9. Justin says:

    This looks like an amazing hack. Surprising that anyone didnt think of it before. The idea that it will not disturb the blind user(which 99 percent iDevices/navigation aids do) is impressive.
    I’d like to contribute to this project during my Masters thesis, Please get in touch at gatchs2@inrifr

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