Smart Shoes with Embedded Sensors Enable Better Safety
Assistive Technology, Europe, Universal Design, May 18 2021
AUSTRIA: Shoes with sensors embedded in them have been created to alert blind and visually impaired people to obstacles in their path. Developed by Austria’s Tec-Innovation company in collaboration with the Graz University of Technology, the intelligent shoes can increase the safety of visually impaired and blind people in their everyday life.
The warning system includes an ultra-bright LED and two sensors placed at the front of each shoe. The sensors detect obstacles and notify the wearer through vibration feedback in the shoe or sound warning signals via a smartphone. The device can warn of potential obstacles located up to four meters ahead, but the user can control the detection range with buttons on the shoe itself or through a mobile application.
“The alerts work like those of cars, the closer you get to the object, the faster the sound or vibrations,” Tec-Innovation CEO Kevin Pajestka tells Spanish newsagency Efe. “If the right shoe detects the obstacle, you hear the sound through the right earphone or you feel the vibration in that foot, which means that you can go to the left,” he says.
The system has a smart function that recognises when the user stops in front of an object and stops sending notifications, for example, when the wearer is standing in a queue or at a bus stop. The LED light is designed for those with low vision, as it can be turned on when there is an obstacle nearby so that users can see it.
The company tested prototypes with visually impaired people, the first of whom was Markus Raffer, one of the company’s partners. “The impression was very good, the customers even wanted to buy the prototypes,” Pajestka said.
After five years of work, InnoMake was approved as a medical device in Europe in September 2020, meaning it can be sold throughout the continent. “Hence, our clients can get financing from public institutions or insurance to pay for the product, and since it is a medical device the possibility of being granted is very high,” Pajestka said.
The price of the whole product – the shoes plus the sensors – is 3,840 euros ($A6,000,), while the sensors that can adapt to any shoes cost 4,000 euros. “There are obstacles that the sensor cannot detect, such as down the stairs or potholes,” warns Pajestka.
To solve this problem, the company began in 2016 to develop an artificial intelligence camera capable of recognising a “safe area to walk”.
“In case of being in front of a hole, the alert could tell the user to slow down,” he explains, adding that these advances could one day see the blind ditch their canes.
Originally Published on The West