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35 Innovators Under 35

Anirudh Sharma, 24

Haptic shoe for the visually impaired

Ducere Technologies, Bangalore

Anirudh Sharma

The life of visually impaired people hasn't changed much even with the recent technological advances. At present trained guide-dogs are used by visually impaired to help them reach the final destination. But these aids are very expensive, more so in India. Further, technology aids using voice feedback based devices aren't helpful either to the blind as they block their inherent sense of hearing. They use their sense of hearing to avoid traffic, crowds, and obstacles. Anirudh Sharma has come up with another alternative, Le Chal, which is an unobtrusive navigation aid for the visually impaired.

The basic idea behind Le Chal innovator of the year Anirudh Sharma, 24 Haptic shoe for the visually impaired Ducere Technologies, Bangalore is that one of the user's shoes will provide haptic feedback, guiding the user toward their destination by vibrating in the front, back, or on either side. A vibration on the front indicates that they should keep going straight, a vibration on the left side means that they should turn left, and so on. The user begins by speaking their destination on Google Maps, using their Le Chal-apprunning Android smart phone.

That phone then communicates using Bluetooth with a LilyPad Arduino circuit board located in the heel of the shoe. Following the Google-supplied turn-by-turn directions, along with locational data from its own global positioning system (GPS) unit, the phone gets the control-board to activate each of the shoe's four vibrators as needed. The vibrations start out low but build in intensity as the user nears points where they have to turn. A proximity sensor in the front of the shoe also alerts the user to obstacles which it can detect from up to 10 feet (three meters) away.

This haptic shoe is simple and unobtrusive in design and uses low-cost readily available components and provides tactile feedback to assist the visually impaired in their day-to-day outdoor navigation tasks. All that the user requires is a Le Chal shoe and a mobile phone with GPS. Sharma is now on a mission to fabricate at least 20-30 sub $20 (Rs. 900) Le-Chal kits and distribute it to the visually impaired.

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