Yup, you heard it right. Honda is working with start-up Ashirase, Inc. to develop a new kind of GPS navigation system that you can wear with your shoes. The system would create vibrations at the level of the feet and toes to guide the wearer along a precise route and reach their destination.
Before you dismiss it completely, there is a very justifiable reason as to why Honda is investing in the technology. While the navigation system can be used by everyone, it is essentially designed to help visually impaired people get around.
“An accident suffered by one of my family members motivated me to take action to realise safer and more free mobility for visually impaired people. I developed the Ashirase and applied to Ignition, Honda’s new business creation programme, which led to the establishment of Ashirase, Inc,” said Wataru Chino, representative director of Ashirase, Inc.
He added that they aim to devote themselves wholeheartedly “to realise the freedom of mobility for visually impaired people”. Chino also stated that he was sure that Ashirase will “overcome obstacles” as they work toward the market launch of the start-up.
How does it work?
The device is equipped with a motion sensor which works in conjunction with a smartphone application. The device will then be attached to the shoe, which will then help guide users by sending vibrations to the level of the feet.
So while it does mainly help the visually impaired, it also allows sighted users to have their hands free from their smartphones in a city setting. If you have to go straight, the device vibrates on the front part of the foot, while if you have to turn, the vibrations will be felt on the right or left side, depending on the direction you have to go.
And if you’ve gone too far, or taken the wrong direction, specific vibrations will also warn you. 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.
It sounds like it’s something that someone just has to get used to. But if you’re visually impaired, you probably won’t mind getting vibrations down your feet if it means you get to move around easier.
The navigation system could be commercially available by the first quarter of 2023. You can watch Honda’s video regarding the technology for more information—you can toggle the closed caption option for an English translation.