2014 is quickly becoming the Year of the Wearable, with almost every major tech manufacturer working to build their own smartwatch, sports-band or other wearable device. Amongst all the hype however, there has been very little innovation. Now however, a fresh new wearable device is coming, not from the US or Korea, but rather from India.
Local startup Ducere Technologies Inc. is working on their own sports-focused wearable device, the Lechal (meaning “take me along” in Hindi), which they hope to bring to market later this year. But this is no sport-band, rather it takes the form of Bluetooth-networked smart-footwear. While previous companies such as Nike have managed to insert step counters in their shoes, the Lechal takes this idea to whole new levels.
The Lechal logs information of not just footsteps and distance traveled, but also can track the location of the wearer in real time using GPS. This data is communicated via Bluetooth to a smartphone app which then is able to calculate information such as the number of calories burnt, and also provide feedback as to interesting sights and landmarks nearby to the wearer.
While this in itself is cool, what really makes the Lechal stand out from the pack is its use of haptic feedback. A user can simply plot a destination into the app, and it will calculate which route they should take. Then, when the user approaches an intersection, or fork in their path, the shoe which is on the side which they should turn will vibrate. This feedback is put to use in making sure you never leave your phone behind, with the shoes vibrating if they are separated significantly from your phone. In addition, users can interact with their shoes through gestures (such as tapping the toe of the shoe) in order to log positions, and save their route. Ducere Technologies also believes that their product will greatly improve the quality of life of visually impaired people, and thus has teamed up with non-profit groups in order to distribute the shoes to these groups.
The Lechal itself come in two forms. One is a standalone pair of ‘smart-shoes’, while the other takes the form of a smart insole which can be placed inside a regular shoe. They are powered by a small Li-ion battery, which can be easily recharged at the end of the day. While the devices have been designed in India, the actual product is being manufactured in China in order (presumably) to keep costs low. The Lechal will go on sale in September this year, reportedly for around $100-150.
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