If the latest great idea from MIT Media Lab had a theme song, we think it would be a remix to “A Whole New World,” from everyone’s (right?) childhood top five fave Aladdin. The idea we’re singing about is researcher Dhairya Dand’s SuperShoes smart insoles. You might not expect something in the Dr. Scholl’s family to unlock a universe of shining, shimmering splendor, but your skepticism begs the question — when did you last let your heart decide?
Open up said heart to SuperShoes, insoles meant to inspire the explorer in you to take the path least traveled and most cool. Each flexible silicone insole is equipped with a microcontroller, batteries and Bluetooth along with vibrotactile ticklers and a pad that senses your walk to guide you on your journey. Sounds bulky and not fun to trot on, but the insoles are flexible, thin and comfy so you can fit it in any shoe you would normally slip an insole into. They want you to be able to rely less on your smartphone when walking around, so will talk to it for you, finding out location and data to keep you on your path even if your map app is tucked away.
We recently wrote about the blazer that helps you navigate your city thanks to GPS, LED lights in the sleeves and vibrations that tell you when to turn. Insoles are a more subtle, every day form of navigational wearables in a whole new category we’re dubbing “steppables.” Or guideables. While we’re working on that, let’s discuss how SuperShoes work, shall we? When your left toe tickles, the insoles are telling you to turn left. Right toe tickles = take a right turn.
Sounds simple enough, but SuperShoes is only getting started. If you feel two tickles, this means your shoes are recommending that you stop and smell the roses… or buy the croissant. Yes, as SS smartens up, they will recommend places around you to see, eat, stroll and generally enjoy. Log onto SuperShoes’ website to share what you’re up to, what you like and dislike and over time it will plan walking adventures for you whenever you have some free time.
Just like FourSquare might ask you if you’re near a certain restaurant and provide you with insta-tips for what to eat if you are, SuperShoes maps a new route to a must-try or gotta-see destination. And if you don’t want to be surprised, pull out your ol’ smartphone to see where your ‘soles are taking you.
Like a virtual string around your finger, the insoles make sure you don’t miss an opportunity to cross a task off of your to do list, too. If you tell SuperShoes you need to run an errand, it will buzz you to let you know when you’re near a spot where you can make it happen. Gotta pick up wine for tonight’s party? Buzz buzz buzzzzz, we’re near a wine store! Phew, close one. Where were these when we were toting around red Netflix envelopes to throw in a mailbox that never seemed to be there!
Tech meant to give you and your smartphone some space sounds good to us although we could see it enhancing certain parts of our techno life — like running! As a jogger, this gets our toes twinkling imagining being able to use our smartphone solely for streaming jock jams while our sneakers guide us on pre-planned routes. The same goes for dancing — we’re seeing similar insoles in our dancing shoes to monitor move-busting and choreography. These are the things that we dream of at night.
SuperShoe sporters who wore the insoles for an entire month felt like their feet developed an intuition and their steps became a sixth sense guiding them from Okay A to Never-Been-Before B. We don’t think shoe insoles have gotten us this excited since we found out we could soon 3D print perfectly-fitting insoles from foot selfies. If only we could print SuperShoes out. Someday…
Would you wear a pair of SuperShoes? What other article of clothing would you want hooked up to the ‘net? Dream big below!
(h/t: Fast Co. Design)