Dhairya Dand, researcher at MIT’s Media Lab, has created these very cool “SuperShoes” that tickle your toes to help “facilitate urban rediscovery”.
Today we immerse in our digital lives through smartphones – we use google maps to navigate to the right location, yelp to find the right restaurant and so on. We don’t get lost anymore, we don’t wander, wonder and discover. Acts of random serendipity through walking brings us back to our innate nature as explorers, walking is meditating.
SuperShoes are a pair of flexible inner soles that you can flex, twist and put in any of your shoes to make them a supershoe. Each of these soles have three vibrotactile motors that tickle your toes, a capacitive pad that recognizes your touch and serves as an input modality. Onboard micro controller, low-power bluetooth and battery supplement the interface. The soles talk to the smartphone to use its location and data services. Users register onto ShoeCentral – once – where they populate their likes and dislikes (food, people, shopping, weather, places, hobbies, activities, interests etc) and social preferences. The ShoeCentral keeps learning about user preferences as you use the SuperShoes to go around.
The shoes are based on a tickling interface – left toe tickles – turn left, right toe tickles – turn right, no tickle – keep going, both tickle repeatedly – reached destination, both tickle once – recommendation, both tickle twice – reminder.
The shoes perform varying functions –
Map – The shoes take you to your destination by tickling. You input your destination once on the accompanying smartphone app. No more staring at the screen, rather immerse in your surroundings.
Tour guide – Since the shoes know your likes and dislikes, they recommend places of interest nearby. You could look at the smartphone app to know the suggestion, but ideally – the user follows the tickle to reach the suggested place as a surprise. Say you like Sushi and the shoes know this, the shoes know that you are on 33rd St and 7th Avenue, the shoes tickle you to take you to the Sushi place nearby which is highly recommended online. You can pause the suggestion by tapping on the toes to ignore it.
Reminders – Most of our to-do lists are on the smartphone or on the computer, we don’t constantly monitor these lists throughout the day. The shoes know your tasks, and they tickle you twice to remind you when you are close to the place. Say you had to pick up wine before reaching home, as you approach close to the wine store, the shoes tickle you – and as you look around – you see the wine store and you remember your task.
Break time – We don’t take breaks, we run from one place to the other. The shoes have access to your calendar and know if you have a free slot in the day, they plan a short route for you that starts and ends at your current location. So you can go out and take a break – walk without worrying where you are going – while being assured that you’d reach back at your origin in time.
Getting lost – Given the design of cities and the cross streets, there are infinite number of ways to go from one place to the other. However, we always take the same route from our work to home and vice versa. Depending on how much time you have at hand, the shoes suggest a new route for you everyday so that you can discover, explore more and not worry about getting lost.
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