This toe-tickling navigation system will help the visually impaired go high

After the death of a visually impaired relative, Shibuya Tomino had no choice but to take action. In response to this tragedy, Honda EV engineers developed an in-shoe navigation system called Ashirase (product name and company name), which allows people with low vision to navigate with their feet instead of cell phones or other visual aids. The haptic navigation system has won financial support from the Honda Ignition business incubator program and continues to receive attention.

The Ashirase system consists of two parts, including a dedicated Ashirase navigation application running on the user’s smartphone and a silicone insole equipped with an electronic compass with a combined motion sensor. Once the user has programmed their walking destination into the app, the insole will vibrate in various patterns and rhythms-“walking forward” will cause vibrations under the soles of the feet, and “turning left” will rub the appropriate side of the feet , The speed for the insert vibration indicates that it is close to a turn or obstacle.

The idea behind the system is to allow users to better understand their surroundings while walking and use their feet to navigate, instead of repeatedly stopping to ask their smartphones or passers-by directions.


Currently, insert prototypes can only be used for low-top sneakers and formal shoes, but Chino has plans to expand the selection of footwear. “We are considering [new footwear styles], And the idea at this time is twofold,” Chino told Engadget through an interpreter. “One is to try to change, modify [electronic] Device so that the shape can fit other types of shoes. “

“Otherwise,” he continued, “what we can do is change the yellow part of this device to make it suitable for other types of shoes”, noting that the white “disc” part can be disconnected from the flexible yellow insert located around the insole connect. Various vibration navigation gyroscopes are installed on the wearer’s feet. When the system is used for an average of three hours of navigation per day, the battery life of the system is one week. Initially, the plug-in will provide common small, medium and large sizes in Japan, but he plans to provide more personalized accessories after the product goes on the market.

The navigation system is currently a bit limited, based on the Google Maps API instead of high-definition map sources, because it will work as long as the navigation data signal is available. This means that the system may not initially work in indoor areas such as shopping malls or hotels-although hiking trails, parks, and other public lands should be fine.

According to reports, Chino and his team are considering integrating personal dead reckoning (PDR) systems, Wi-Fi-based positioning or IoT navigation functions to help users pass indoor public spaces in the future. According to reports, the team also plans to add public transportation options to the program in the future.

The company plans to release a beta version of the Ashirase system in Japan in October or November this year. Before being asked to provide feedback, users will be able to use plug-ins and apps for free for one week. After the public beta, Ahirase executives expect that the commercial product will be ready in October 2022, including a monthly subscription fee of 2,000-3,000 yen (18-27 US dollars).

However, prior to this, the startup is seeking approximately 200 million yen in additional funding-excluding the 70 million yen in equity already provided by the Ignition program-to expand its scale to achieve full production.

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