Wednesday, July 17, 2024

InnoMake smart shoe warns blind and visually impaired people of obstacles

Smart living doesn’t always have to be about networked devices in your own four walls; it can also help people in completely different ways.

To make everyday life safer for visually impaired, blind, and elderly people, the Lower Austrian company Tec-Innovation has developed an intelligent shoe, known as “InnoMake,” that tells you where to go.

The warning system built into the shoe includes distance sensors, sensors for detecting foot movements, a vibration unit, an ultra-bright LED, and a processing unit, as well as a wireless connection to a smartphone. The built-in electronics and battery are mounted in a water and dust-resistant casing at the front of the shoe.

InnoMake smart shoe warns blind and visually impaired people of obstacles
InnoMake on brown shoes, man walking up steps. Credit: Tec-Innovation

The smart shoe uses ultrasound sensors on the toe to warn blind users of obstacles in their path. It can detect potential obstacles located up to four meters in front of the user. The wearer is then warned by haptic (vibration), acoustic, or visual signals.

The vibration feedback is provided directly in the shoe, which allows you to feel if there is an obstacle in front of you. The acoustic feedback is provided via a smartphone and, if required, via, e.g., bone conduction headphones so as not to drown out environmental noises. In addition, the visual impulses can be transmitted via the LED on the shoe, and they can provide you with additional support in the dark.

The built-in batteries effortlessly cope with average daily life due to this intelligent control system and last for up to one week, depending on use. You can fully recharge InnoMake within three hours with the provided Micro-USB cable.

InnoMake smart shoe warns blind and visually impaired people of obstacles
David Schinagl in front of three shots from the perspective of shoes. Credit: TU Graz

The InnoMake was designed in partnership with the Austria’s Graz University of Technology. The TU Graz team is now working on a camera-based version of the shoe’s removable sensor module. Deep-learning algorithms analyze the camera images to recognize and mark areas that can be walked on without danger.

The team also wants to combine the information collected while wearing the shoe in terms of swarm knowledge into a kind of street view navigation map for visually impaired people. InnoMake has been engineered to help people with visual impairments, elderly people as well as rescue organizations in their everyday life.

There is no information on when the camera-equipped InnoMake shoes may be available. But the existing version of the InnoMake smart shoe is now already available on the market for the price of €3,200 (1 pair).