'Smart shoes' replace maps

The 'Sneakairs' offer more time sight-seeing and less time looking at maps. Photo / Supplied
The 'Sneakairs' offer more time sight-seeing and less time looking at maps. Photo / Supplied

Toss away your city maps and travel guides, sightseers - with these shoes, all you have to do is follow your own feet.

These smart sneakers, proposed by UK budget airline EasyJet, are designed to guide the wearer around an unfamiliar city by using vibrations to indicate the direction in which they need to walk.

Dubbed "Sneakairs", the shoes are equipped with built-in vibration sensors and, via Bluetooth, connect to an app that uses a smartphone's GPS.

The shoes then guide wearers on their walking expedition by triggering small vibrations on either shoe, depending on the direction the wearer needs to turn to reach their destination.

And not only would the shoes help tourists navigate a strange city without referring to a map or asking for directions, they would also be perfect for helping you find your hotel after a big night out.

"A 'wrong turn' detector and route recalculation functions have been incorporated so that if a user gets lost or voluntarily wishes to leave the route, it will be able to guide them back onto the right course towards their final destination," the airline said in a press release.

It continued: "The app has been prepared to run in the background to so users can keep their phones in their pocket without the need to follow on screen directions."

A prototype of the shoe was recently tested on the streets of Barcelona by users who reportedly reached various landmarks successfully, including Gaudi's Casa La Pedrera and Casa Batllo, without having to use a map.

Maurizio Pesce from Wired was among those who tested the prototype shoes during the Barcelona Street Project, where EasyJet announced their innovation.

"I meandered around Gracia, one of the city's oldest neighbourhoods, a labyrinth of narrow streets with few signs to direct tourists," he wrote in a piece for Wired.

"The architecture here is gorgeous, and the last thing you want to do is keep checking your phone for directions. These smart shoes let me simply enjoy the scenery and take in the sights. "At first, I was worried about feeling the vibrations, but the buzzbox is in the heel, and is easily sensed. Don't even worry about it.

"It felt a bit magical being guided by my shoes."

So far, the app needed to operate the Sneakairs is only available for iPhone users but EasyJet hopes to release one compatible with Android devices.

The shoes themselves are still in the development stage and there is no word yet on when they'll be available.

But an EasyJet spokesman told The Telegraph the shoes were "a versatile product built with components which can be used in almost any kind of footwear".

"We believe this is an innovative product which can work in the real world," he said.

"For this reason, we will keep working with our developers in order to turn this project into a reality."

- news.com.au

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