Why walk around squinting into a tiny screen when your footwear can guide you to a desired destination? British artist Dominic Wilcox has created a pair of wingtips that do just that. Inspired by Dorothy’s ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz, the shoes are outfitted with global positioning microchips that are activated when the heels are clicked together. Once the wearer’s chosen destination is uploaded by means of a USB port, LED lights on the toe of the left shoe point the wearer in the right direction while the tip of the right shoe gives a progress reading. “The technology isn’t shouting; it’s a sort of an additive making the shoe more useful,” says Wilcox, who is in talks with several companies to bring the shoes to market next year.
While Wilcox’s brogues may never amount to more than an art gallery curiosity, the advent of miniature, low-cost sensors and LED modules has set off a race among tech giants and startups to deliver wearable products that can track where you are, what you’re seeing, and how you’re feeling. Intel expects most people eventually will wear three to eight items with sensors and computers embedded into them. The chipmaker has a new line of processors designed to be used in small devices, such as smartwatches. And through its venture arm, Intel has an investment in Recon Instruments, a Canadian company that makes tech-laden headgear for athletes. As part of its push into wearables, the company has also poached talent from Nike and Oakley. “We are going to see wearables on all parts of the body,” says Mike Payne, director of experience design at Intel Labs.