How Your Shoe Can Secretly Help You Text
Technology and etiquette don’t move in lockstep. Just because it’s possible to whip out your smartphone and connect from anywhere doesn’t mean you should. Text during a meeting and you risk offending your boss, e-mail during family dinner and you risk displeasing your spouse, peruse your MP3 collection during a football and you risk missing that goal.
A new device being developed by engineers in
, however, promises to liberate smartphone addicts from the
strictures of social opprobrium, making it easier to work their devices
sneakily under the noses of those who might judge them for it. The gadget is
called ShoeSense. It’s a motion sensor that, indeed, mounts on a shoe. Facing
upward, it allows a user to control his phone through hand gestures performed
at midriff level, even when the phone is still stored away in his pocket. Pinch
index finger and thumb together and move your hand slightly forward to answer
the phone or hang up, touch one hand to the other forearm to send a prewritten
text, hold out a number of fingers to communicate whom on your speed-dial list
to send it to. A person using ShoeSense
looks a bit like a theremin player. Germany
If the ShoeSense user is sitting at a desk, however, or a conference table, he looks as if he’s not doing anything at all and instead paying you his undivided attention—even as, sub rosa, he’s semaphoring his phone to send out a text about happy hour. “It is quite discreet,” says Gilles Bailly, a computer scientist at Technische Universität
and who is one of ShoeSense’s creators.
“Say you are in a meeting, you want to indicate that you are going to be late.
You’ve already defined the gesture for this, and you perform the gesture under
the table. The system on your shoe can recognize it, and nobody at the meeting
knows that you performed the gesture.” Berlin
ShoeSense is still a long way from showing up in your next pair of Nikes. Bailly’s lab is still tinkering with it. Still, bosses might prepare for its eventual arrival—perhaps by installing glass conference tables or by asking that, during meetings, people keep their hands where everyone can see them.