For something that was conceptualised over an impulse to help the “visually-impaired navigate their worlds better”, Lechal (Hindi for take me along) has sure come a long way. Touted as the world’s first interactive haptic footwear, this wearable will soon be available as a shoe or insole that tells you which way to go and collects data about our activities on the way.
We believe technology has to integrate with our lives. And a shoe is almost like a natural extension and you always have it on,” explains Krispian Lawrence, Co-Founder & CEO, Ducere Technologies. Lechal uses haptic feedback to direct the person wearing it and can collect data like other wearable devices.
Since the shoe was first showcased last year, there has been a lot of interest about this device, especially since it was conceptualised in India and will now also be made here. “We initially started manufacturing in China, but we have since set up a unit in Hyderabad. The product will be available in the coming months and we are awaiting some final certifications,” says Lawrence. His target is to take Lechal to four top markets including India by the last quarter of 2015.
The University of Michigan graduate setup Ducere Technologies in Hyderabad with Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumni Anirudh Sharma in 2011. The company has raised $2million from angel investors and has plans to raise additional funding.
Interestingly, Lawrence does not look at his venture as a tech player, but a fashion player. “We are the future of footwear and fashion. In fact, we are as high on fashion as technology,” he adds. So the plan is to have a difference variant every quarter and thus appeal to all types of people.
Though keen to build a brand on their own, Ducere Technologies — arguably the oldest wearable tech company in India — is open to collaborating with bigger players. “We have been approached by a couple on international brands. Talks are on for joint development opportunities,” says Lawrence.
Lawrence is confident about Lechal, especially since there is “nothing out there yet”. “That gives us a good entry point,” he says, adding that ensuring the quality of their products is a primary concern.
The shoe and insole will work in tandem with a smartphone app that will collect and collate the data. “But it is important to understand that the app is just part of the experience,” says Lawrence. The company wants their custom software to develop into a platform for developers to create app for their products. So a software development kit (SDK) is being worked on and will be released soon.
Lawrence assures that while it does cost to make a quality product, Lechal won’t be priced beyond what products from international brands would be. The plan is to reduce costs as scale kicks in later on.
Lechal is not the only product that Ducere Technologies is working on and you can expect all sorts of wearable devices from the company soon. “We want to create an ecosystem of wearables performing distributed tasks.”