One of the leading causes of sidewalk-based injury is tripping on uneven pavement and/or falling into a manhole. Figure 1 illustrates one of the dangers inherent in modern sidewalks.
This danger has become even more pronounced now that people are more likely to be looking at their cell phones as they walk.
Fig. 1: As you walk along the sidewalk, be on the lookout for obstacles in your path! This open telecommunications panel could easily trip you and/or cause you to fall into a tangled nest of wires.
An array of sensors on the front of the shoe will constantly scan for irregularities in the upcoming pavement.
- Case 1: If the shoe detects an elevated obstacle (such as a stair step up or an object in the way), a cell-phone-vibrate-style motor located above the user’s toes will buzz.
- Case 2: If the shoe detects a sudden drop (such as a stair step down, an open manhole cover, or a measureless abyss), a motor located below the user’s toes will buzz.
- Case 3: If the shoe scans up and detects that the obstacle is extremely tall (e.g. a lamppost or just a regular wall), it can be configured to either buzz both motors (“don’t run into that lamppost”) or, if the user gets too many false positives from this situation (which would occur any time you were standing next to a door, wall, or other person), this situation could just generate no warning at all.
In this way, the user can easily tell if the upcoming danger is an object in the way (situation 1) or a “falling” danger (situation 2).
Fig. 2: Here, the sensors in the shoe will scan ahead to look for dangerous obstacles (or a sudden drop-off in the path).
Fig. 3: In this scenario, the two detection units on the right side of the shoe (green, with check marks) do not detect any danger, but the two units on the left side of the shoe will alert the wearer to the open telecom panel.
Fig. 4: Physical comedy will be dealt a setback, as no one will ever again slip on a banana peel in this utopian shoe-with-detectors future.
Fig. 5: “Falling into a snake pit” will no longer be a concern of yours, thanks to this new footwear technology! Computer vision has advanced to the point where a snake pit (which constantly slithers and hisses) can easily be distinguished from a normal sidewalk (which does neither).
PROS: You won’t fall into a snake pit again.
CONS: False negatives could be exceptionally deadly (e.g. “I stepped onto a pane of fragile glass above a chasm because the shoe didn’t sense any danger”). Does not protect against falling pianos or anvils.
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