– Startup will strive to launch Ashirase, navigation system in shoes to help the visually impaired –
TOKYO, Japan, June 11, 2021 – Honda Motor Co., Ltd. today announced the establishment of Ashirase, Inc., the first business venture to originate from IGNITION, Honda’s new business creation program. Ashirase, Inc. is currently developing an in-shoe navigation system to support the visually impaired with walking and will strive to begin sales of the system, also named “Ashirase,” before the end of the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023.
Ashirase vibration device attached to shoes and Ashirase smartphone app screen
Ashirase vibration device
The Ashirase is a navigation system consisting of a smartphone app and a three-dimensional vibration device including a motion sensor, which is attached inside the shoe.
Based on the route set with the app, the device vibrates to provide navigation. When the user should go straight, the vibrator positioned on the front part of the foot vibrates, and when the user is approaching a right or left turn, the vibrator on the right or left side vibrates to notify the user. The navigation provided by Ashirase enables intuitive understanding of the route, and therefore the user does not have to be constantly mindful of the direction, which makes it possible for the user to walk more safely and with a more relaxed state of mind.
■ Key features of Ashirase
- Guidance information for the visually impaired user is generated based on GNSS*1 positioning information and data based on the user’s foot movement.
- Navigation is provided through vibration on the foot, so as not to interfere with the user’s hand which is holding a white cane, or ears used to listen to ambient sounds.
- Vibrators are located aligned with the nerve layer of the foot, making it easy to feel the vibration.
- Soft material that maintains its original shape is used for the device in order to limit any discomfort to the user.
Overview of Ashirase navigation system
■ Issues related to walking of the visually impaired
In Japan, the number of people with visual impairment including low vision*2 was estimated to be 1.64 million as of 2007, and the number is forecast to increase to nearly 2 million by 2030*3.
Visually impaired people constantly check their safety and route to the destination when they walk alone. However, as they are required to use all remaining senses to acquire information to compensate for their limited sight, it is somewhat inevitable that they will be unable to pay thorough attention and face functional issues such as “getting lost” or “falling into unsafe situations.” Moreover, discovery sessions conducted by the development team with the visually impaired revealed that such functional issues lead to psychological issues, as indicated by comments such as:
“I feel frustrated when I remember the time when I was walking freely without vision problems.” (comment by a person with low vision)
“When I get lost, people around me sometimes do not respond when I try to talk to them. It is scary because I don’t know why they are not responding.” (comment by a person with late-onset total blindness).
With the concept of “navigation which enables safety and a relaxed state of mind for the visually impaired,” Ashriase is being developed as a product which helps the users reach their destinations safely and have a more independent lifestyle.
- *1GNSS stands for Global Navigation Satellite System, a collective name for satellite positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) systems.
- *2The 2006-2008 report on the “social cost of visual impairments in Japan” published by a research team of the Japan Ophthalmologists Association defines “people with corrected vision of more than 0.1 (20/200 in the US system) and below 0.5 (20/40 in the US system) in their best-seeing eye.”
- *3Source: The 2006-2008 report on “social cost of visual impairments in Japan” published by a research team of Japan Ophthalmologists Association
URL: https://www.gankaikai.or.jp/info/kenkyu/2006-2008kenkyu.pdf (Japanese only)
■ Comment by Wataru Chino, Representative Director of Ashirase, Inc.
“An accident suffered by one of my family members motivated me to take action to realize safer and more free mobility for visually impaired people. I developed the Ashirase and applied to IGNITION, Honda’s new business creation program, which led to the establishment of Ashirase, Inc. I am sure that we will face many obstacles as we work toward the market launch of Ashirase; however, we will overcome such obstacles one by one and devote ourselves wholeheartedly to realize the freedom of mobility for visually impaired people.”
Wataru Chino, Representative Director of Ashirase, Inc. holding a shoe with the Ashirase navigation system
<About IGNITION new business creation program>
Honda’s new business creation program which gives shapes to the original technologies, ideas and designs of Honda associates and contributes to solving social issues and creating new value for customers, going beyond existing Honda business.
■ Key features of IGNITION
- All full-time Honda associates in Japan are eligible to submit proposals regardless of their length of employment and assigned divisions.
- Ideas that pass the final evaluation process will be commercialized within the company or through a startup venture.
- In principle, the decision on commercialization will be made within a 6-month period, during which a taskforce team consisting of internal specialists will be formed to support each proposer.
- The venture capital firm will provide advice and support to each proposer throughout the evaluation process.
- In order to ensure independence of the startup, the ratio of capital contribution by Honda will be limited to no more than 20%