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Techknow Buzz – Here come smart talking shoes!

Here come smart talking shoes!

Whenever we plan to explore a new place, we wish to have a friendly, energetic and professional tour guide. But imagine a pair of obedient shoes, which tells you your location, nearest attraction points, shows you the shortest route on a map and allows you to post your experience on your favorite social networking websites. It is not a fairytale because a new hightech footwear from Google can now provide directions, speed and can even dish out trash talk. Recently, at the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, Google unveiled this prototype footwear. The prototype has been created in collaboration with Adidas, YesYesNo – a creative thinker and 72andSunny – an advertising agency.


The shoe is outfitted with a speaker, computer, accelerometer, gyroscope and pressure sensor. It is programmed to translate the pressure sensor and accelerometer readings into simple audio instructions for users. Google’s shoemakers have given it shoes their own personality – that of a sarcastic, impatient personal trainer who cheers and sneers in equal measure. For example, when users get stationary for too long, it will say, “This is super boring”, or “Let’s do this”. When someone ups their activity, the shoes will pipe up with, “That’s more like it”, and “I love the feel of the wind in my laces”.

And increasing to a sprint will prompt the speakers to call out, “Call 911, you are on fire”, or the ultimate in praise, “You have made me a very proud shoe”. According to media reports, the shoes know 250 such phrases.

It connects to the Internet via bluetooth and an Android phone and works with Google Map to track and plot runs.

Is privacy at stake?
No doubt, Google’s smart talking shoes have drawn people’s attention worldwide, but it has also raised debate on the privacy issue. Imagine a hypothetical situation. Your shoes sense your location that you are in the vicinity of an advertiser’s store, and starts hard-selling the latest undergarment or a pregnancy home test-kit or x-rated shows’ tickets, based on your most recent Google searches – now who wouldn’t have objection on this kind of privacy invasion?

Related work
The connected shoe isn’t a totally novel idea. Earlier, Nike had made sneakers with sensors in them to measure users’ workouts. But a shoe with a personality, which actually speaks with users in a human voice, is a bit of a novelty.

Sensor for reconnaissance operations

The military always wants everything smaller, lighter and precise. To address this need, a team of researchers at the US Army Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) integrated state-of-the-art devices and developed ‘Global Strike Near Real Time Battle Data Assessment (NRT-BDA) System’.

The ECBC has collaborated with other organisations to design sensors and other parts that the Electronic Design and Integration Branch incorporated into the device. They worked wiTheCBC’s Engineering Design and Analysis Branch, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, Air Force Research Laboratory, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Kansas State University and Smith’s Detection.

The Global Strike NRT-BDA System incorporates unattended sensors and a remote warfighter interface to provide timely reporting of conditions during reconnaissance operations. One sensor includes a chemical agent detector similar in shape and size of a two-pound soda can. The sensors are intended to be air deployed and have been tested from a P-3 Orion aircraft at 1,000 feet. The sensor is equipped with an accelerometer, which triggers the release of the cap and small parachute (ballute). Once it lands, spring-loaded legs pop open, allowing it to sit upright.

The detector is also equipped with a GPS tracking device. Once the detector has landed and the position remains the same, the device initiates the start sequence of the detector so it can detect chemical agents and other threats, in addition to seismic activity.

This detector, which was a redesign of the Joint Chemical Agent Detector, can feed information to a satellite and then to soldiers manning a warfighter interface as far as a few thousand miles away.

One of the earlier challenges with the Global Strike NRT-BDA was fitting all three antennas onto a circuit board that was two and-one-quarter-inch in diameter. It contained a GPS antenna for location purposes, an iridium antenna that sends information up to a satellite, and a short-range communications antenna. In a later design, the short-range communication antenna was no longer required.