Honda Developing Extraordinary New GPS Shoes

New smart navigation device could bring personal mobility up to date.

Jul 12, 2021
Honda Developing Extraordinary New GPS Shoes | New smart navigation device could bring personal mobility up to date.

Here’s some exciting news for visually impaired people. Automobile, small airplane and equipment brand Honda, under its new business venture program, IGNITION, is backing a startup developing an in-shoe navigation system to make walking easier for blind and partially-sighted people. 

The Ashiraise navigation system is made up of a smartphone app, and a three-dimensional vibration device, a Honda media release details.

Using the app, you set your destination before heading off on your pedestrian journey via voice or screen input. Once you’ve started walking,  sensors allow the system to determine your current position, and it gives you directions along the way via vibrations in your shoes.

And how about the shoe part? Outwardly, the system looks like a pair of gadgets you clip to the tongues of your shoes. These are the external motion sensors. The rest of the user-friendly device fits around each foot inside a shoe, and looks like silicone sandal straps. These provide navigation through vibration on the instep, sides and heels of the user’s feet.

As Japan Today explains, the straps of the device are outfitted with several compact oscillators that vibrate to signal direction: “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.”

The news release reveals that this GPS walking aid will relieve visually impaired people of much of the stress of walking outside, offering them peace of mind, and a safer walking experience: 

“The navigation provided by Ashirase [Inc.] enables intuitive understanding of the route, and therefore the user does not have to be constantly mindful of the direction, which makes it possible for the user to walk more safely and with a more relaxed state of mind.”

Several features show how the real needs of visually impaired people are being carefully considered. For instance, navigation is provided via vibration on the foot, so as not to interfere with the user’s hand which is holding a white cane, or ears used to listening to ambient sounds. 

Ashiraise Inc. Founder and Director, Wataru Chino, was driven to develop the navigation system after seeing a close relative struggle with life after visual impairment, reveals the media release: “An accident suffered by one of my family members motivated me to take action to realize safer and more free mobility for visually impaired people,”he shares.

The in-shoe navigation system is expected to be made available by March 2023. Mr. Chino goes on to say that in the lead up to its launch, his team “plans to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to realize the freedom of mobility for visually impaired people.”

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.