Computer scientists have created a smart shoe that helps blind and visually impaired people avoid multiple obstacles.
Developed by an Austrian company dubbed Tec-Innovation, backed up by the Graz University of Technology, the product named InnoMake includes a pair of ultrasonic sensors at the tip of each shoe that vibrates and make noises to warn the individual of the obstacle in front of them.
The system has been designed to detect two pieces of information the nature of the obstacle and its directional path, especially in cases the path is downward facing like walking down the stairs or holes, etc.
According to Markus Raffer, the founder of the company (who also is visually impaired) states that the sensor is capable of detecting obstacles up to four meters away. The way it warns the wearer is through vibration and acoustic signals and gets more and more prominent as the person gets closer to the obstacle.
“Ultrasonic sensors on the toe of the shoe detect obstacles up to four meters [13 feet] away,” said Markus Raffer, a founder of Tec-Innovation, who is himself visually impaired. “The wearer is then warned by vibration and/or acoustic signals. This works very well and is already a great help to me personally.”
Furthermore, the closer the barriers are, the faster the vibration gets. For even better results, they have added a camera module and a processor that will run the company’s own algorithm to detect obstacles. Plus, there’s an LED light as well that can flash whenever a hurdle is detected.
In terms of specifications, it senses best when facing downward on the holes or stairs. With the button on the back, you can make real-time changes to the shoes. By pressing the button, you can check the battery charge level and toggle the LED for better visibility.
Moreover, according to AWM, the scientists even hope to create a type of “street view navigation map” with the shoes.
“As it currently stands, only the wearer benefits in each case from the data the shoe collects as he or she walks,” said Fraundorfer. “It would be much more sustainable if this data could also be made available to other people as a navigation aid.”
The InnoMake smart shoe costs roughly $3,000. For the price, you get one device per shoe, one pair of shoes (or installation on an existing pair of shoes), and a USB charger. However, at the moment, the InnoMake smart shoe is only available in Austria and Germany.
Watch the video below for more details: