Haptic GPS sneakers for the visually impaired

gps_haptic_shoe

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.

9 thoughts on “Haptic GPS sneakers for the visually impaired

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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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