Google's Talking Shoes: Just for Show, Not for Sale

Google's talking sneakers are being shown off at SXSW, but they're just a demonstration, says the search engine giant.

Google Glass apparently isn't the only wearable high-tech gadget being explored by the company. A talking shoe is also being developed, but this project is only for show and won't eventually be sold to consumers.

The talking shoe—which isn't a shoe phone like the one used by Maxwell Smart in the "Get Smart" series, by the way—is on display at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. Google is "letting visitors try out its new talking-shoe concept, with a custom-made microcontroller" mounted on the tongue of a pair of Adidas athletic shoes, according to a March 9 report by Engadget.

The talking shoe has "a circular speaker that provides feedback based on your movement (detected by internal accelerometers and gyroscopes, along with pressure sensors in the sole)," the article said. "The shoe will then give you aural feedback, based on how you're moving."

A Google spokesman at SXSW told Engadget that the gadget was to show what could be done and emphasized that "Google is not getting into the shoe business."

The shoe project is part of the Google Playground at SXSW, where the company is showing off some of its latest innovations and ideas, according to a March 7 post on the Google Official Blog. The talking shoe is one of the "Art, Copy & Code" projects and experiments that are on display to show how creativity and technology can work hand-in-hand, according to the post, which was written by Aman Govil, the leader of the Art, Copy & Code Project.

"To explore the world of connected objects, we've partnered with artist Zach Lieberman and YesYesNo to create a smart sneaker with personality that talks back and can connect the wearer's activity to the Web, if the wearer chooses to," Google reported in a separate post about the talking shoes on the Art, Copy & Code Website. "Using an accelerometer, a gyroscope, Bluetooth and some other off-the-shelf technologies, the Talking Shoe translates the wearer's movements into funny, motivating and timely commentary." That running commentary can be sent by the user to Google+, pushed to a Web page using a mobile phone app or broadcast via speakers built into the shoes. "It can talk to the world and to the Web," according to Google.

Before the talking shoe project, Google was still attracting lots of buzz about its ongoing Google Glass project, involving its headset-mounted, wearable computer that's slated to be on sale to consumers sometime in 2014.

In February, Google announced that it would expand its Google Glass testing pool to get more testers and collect additional input for the still-evolving project. The company invited interested applicants to submit proposals for a chance to buy an early model and become a part of its continuing development.

So far, Glass has only been available to developers who attended the annual Google I/O Conference in July 2012, where the devices were unveiled officially. Those developers were given the first chances to buy the first "Explorer Edition" units of the product for $1,500 each when they are offered for sale this year.

As part of the expanded testing program, Google also unveiled some cool new details about Glass through a brief video that explores some of its early capabilities.

Google recently held two "hackathon" events in New York City and San Francisco as part of its "Glass Foundry" program to collect developer input for the devices with an emphasis on developing the Google Mirror API. Attendees were given access to a Glass device for use and testing.

The company also was scheduled to hold a "Building New Experiences with Glass" session on March 11 at the SXSW to further the project's development.

Google also recently revealed that the Glass devices will transmit sound to its users via vibrations through human bones rather than relying on traditional speakers.

The basic components of Glass feature an Android-powered display, a tiny webcam, a GPS locator and an Internet connection node built into one side of a pair of glasses. The glasses are lightweight and may or may not have lenses.

An actual Google Glass device was spotted in public Jan. 21 being used by Google co-founder Sergey Brin on a New York City subway train.