Technology for the modern traveler is a double-edged sword. Reading reviews, sharing photos, getting around — it’s all made easier by the fact that at any point, we can pull out our phones and get some help. We can read about the best restaurant in Houston or the “must-see” giant buffalo in Jamestown, North Dakota.
That’s all awesome and, in moderation, super useful. But the journey mustn’t be forgotten. Wandering through a new city is a great experience. Once you park the car or get off the bus and start walking in the general direction of where you think dinner might be, it’s a shame to have to look down at your phone all the time to make sure you’re headed the right way. You run the risk of missing the whole point of exploring.
To help people navigate new cities, find dinner, and lead a subtly guided wander without getting lost in their phones or guidebooks, EasyJet, the budget UK airline, debuted a prototype of “Sneakairs,” smart shoes for travelers.
It sounds absolutely absurd, but their heart is in the right place.
Inside the shoes are two devices, built with open-source software, and a Bluetooth LE, all packaged in a 3-D-printed plastic case. The devices are buried in the heel of each shoe, and connect wirelessly to your phone, which remains in your pocket. Your directions come directly from the sneakers in the form of a series of vibrations.
The vibrations are fairly obvious but soft, Wired reports. Left and right shoes vibrate once encouraging you to turn in either direction, two buzzes on both feet mean you’ve gotten lost and are on your own, and they buzz three times when you’ve arrived at your location.
It may be absurd, but it’s sure better then keeping your head down for the entirety of your trip.