Jun 18, 2016 | By Alec

Will the shoes of the future be high-tech too? It’s certainly starting to look that way. Just last week, Lenovo unveiled a pair of Intel-powered 3D printed smart sneakers, and now EasyJet has revealed that it is working on something similar. Though specializing in budget flights across Europe, the British company has now ventured into the footwear world with Sneakairs – a pair of sneakers that are packed with sensors (encased in 3D printed housing) that direct you to your destination. Say goodbye to maps or checking your phone at every street corner.

It’s quite a remarkable concept, especially as it has been developed by budget flight providers EasyJet. The project is all part of the company’s Barcelona Street Project, which has recently been tested in the streets of that Catalan city – also one of EasyJet’s most popular destinations. The prototypes were programmed to take the testers to all of the city’s most important landmarks, including Gaudi’s Casa La Pedrera and Casa Batllo – using nothing but their shoes as a guide.

So how does it work? The Sneakairs rely on basic off-the-shelf technology, with GPS sensors encased in water-proof 3D printed housing, stuffed into the shoe's sole. The sensors connect to an app via Bluetooth, and the user simply chooses a destination in the EasyJet app. Using a series of vibrations (from a motor also embedded in the sole), the shoes simply guide the user as they walk – using specific vibrations to let users know if they have to go left or right, or are going in the wrong way. Of course, the shoes also let you know once you’ve arrived by vibrating three times – especially useful when trying to find your hotel.

The app’s navigation tools are powered by Google Maps and the Google Map Directions API, which are embedded in an Arduino clone. Like the other components, this is protected by a 3D printed housing that has been designed to be sweat-repellent. Importantly, users don’t have the sensation of constantly stepping on electronic components, while the GPS can also be turned off for an afternoon of old-fashioned exploration.

But don’t expect to get a pair of Sneakairs alongside your packet of peanuts just yet, as the smart shoes are still being prototyped and no commercialization plans (crowdfunding or otherwise) are on the agenda. EasyJet’s marketing director Peter Duffy did say that they are “looking at making this technology available for purchase on-board in the future,” and is encouraging fans to share the story as much as possible to create some buzz. If the response is positive enough, EasyJet might be coerced into action. Even then, the technology will need to be improved upon before it can be commercially sold; the current shoes only have a three-hour battery life, for example. But these Sneakairs certainly have the potential to change a city trip forever.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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