Honda-Backed In-Shoe Navigator Could Help Guide The Visually Impaired

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Image via Honda

Following the untimely death of a visually impaired relative that could’ve been avoided, Honda EV-engineer Wataru Chino began working on the ‘Ashirase’: a device integrated into a wearer’s shoes that uses haptic vibrations to guide them as they move. Honda even helped to incubate the design, building the startup through its new business incubation initiative, IGNITION.

According to Yanko Design, visually impaired pedestrians often struggle with navigating routes to unknown destinations, either concentrating too much on directions that they fail to pay attention to their immediate surroundings, or the reverse, when they forget to follow directions and are lost.

The Ashirase helps wearers concentrate on walking, while also receiving directions in a less distracting manner, as compared to listening to a smartphone GPS.

The device is fitted between the wearer’s foot and shoe, freeing their hands to hold onto their walking cane instead of a smartphone. Before setting off on their journey, users just have to feed their end-destination into Ashirase’s smartwatch app.

Currently, it runs on the Google Maps API, which means it requires data on the go in order to work, though the company is currently working on a solution for the issue.

As suggested in its name, which means “notification” in Japanese, the wearable notifies users while they walk through vibrations, signalling to them when to change directions.

A beta version of the product will be released in the fall of this year, where users will begin testing the wearable. The company aims to launch it publicly by October 2022, with a subscription model costing between US$18 to US$27 a month.

Take a look at the Ashirase in action below.

Image via Honda

Image via Honda

[via Yanko Design, images via Honda]

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