The vast majority of streets in Japan don’t have names, and so Japanese drivers were early adopters of car navigation systems. Now Honda Motor Co has designed a brand-new navigation system, but this one is for your shoes.
Called Ashirase, outwardly the system looks like a pair of gadgets you clip to your shoes’ tongues. The entire devices, however, actually look more like sandals, though they’re mostly hidden from view since they slide inside your shoes.
The system works in conjunction with a smartphone app, where you set your destination before you set off on your pedestrian journey. Once you’re under way, sensors allow the system to determine your current position, and it gives you directions along the way via vibrations in your shoes.
The straps of the device are outfitted with an array compact oscillators, and firing up different sectors indicates different directions. When the section on the side of your left foot vibrates, for example, that means “Turn left,” and rumbling along the outside edge of your right foot is “Turn right.” About to go too far and miss your turning point? Vibrations all over both feet are the “Stop” signal, and once you’ve got yourself facing the right direction, a tingling over both sets of toes lets you know to move forward.
▼ Vibration diagrams for “forward,” “stop,” and “turn left”
If the system requires a smartphone, though, why not just use any number of other GPS navigation apps, you might be wondering. The answer is that Ashirase is being designed with the needs of visually impaired people in mind. For those with poor eyesight or other ocular issues, checking your smartphone screen in an outdoor/outside your home environment can be difficult or even impossible, Being hands-free means Ashirase doesn’t cause problems for those walking with a white cane, and the guidance vibrations replacing verbal instructions eliminate the need to wear an earphone and hinder the user’s ability to hear the surrounding environment, an important safety concern for people unable to see cars or other potential hazards.
▼ The Ashirase shoe-based navigation system in action.
Honda is developing the system in conjunction with a new company, also called Ashirase, that the automaker helped in the establishment of, and hopes to bring it to market sometime in 2022.
Sources: PR Times, Honda
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