Remember that goofy song from your childhood, "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes"?
Soon, it might be a helpful reminder of all the places on your body where you're wearing miniature computers.
This weekend, at the annual South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, Google unveiled an early prototype of motion-sensing "smart shoes," with an embedded speaker on the tongue of the shoe that can yell motivation at you when you're being lazy, or encourage you when you're being active.
Google --which created the talking shoes in collaboration with Adidas, design and ad agency 72andSunny and creative thinkery YesYesNo -- made it clear to reporters in Austin that it has absolutely no plans whatsoever to actually release the shoes; rather, the next-gen footwear was developed as part of a thought experiment on how wearable technology could interact with the human body and with the Internet. (The shoe, of course, is able to post status updates to Google+, and the video advertisement below shows the shoe with its own Google+ profile.)
Google would probably also like people to get comfortable with the idea of wearing and interacting with small devices, since -- have you heard? -- it's releasing a pair of hotly-debated connected glasses later in 2013. Google wants its Glass to be like shoes, something customers will don on a daily basis, something they don't leave home without putting on, an indispensable part of their lives.
But back to Google's talking shoe: It includes an accelerometer, gyroscope and Bluetooth capability to connect to your smartphone, so that it can measure your activity levels and movement; the speaker on the shoe allows it to spit out one of 250 pre-recorded phrases that either praise your hustle and bustle or rag on your laziness. The shoe's voice was designed to be a bit snarky and sarcastic and to have a memorable personality -- perhaps in homage to a certain assistant on another company's smartphone.
The connected shoe isn't a totally novel idea, of course: Nike has long made sneakers with sensors in them to measure your workouts. A shoe with a personality, however, that actually speaks to you in a human voice, is a bit of a novelty. That it's got a dash of Joan Rivers wit only sweetens the final product.
You can watch blue-eyed, blond-haired Engadget reporter Brian Heater try out the Google shoe and get generally berated by his high tops below (Like The Huffington Post, Engadget is owned by AOL):
Head, shoulders, knees and toes: Soon, there will be gadgets for all of those. You'll be able to wear Google Glass on your head; a Memoto life-logging camera on your shoulder, to take a photo of your day every 30 seconds; and Internet-connected shoes to measure the health and activity of your knees and toes. Worried about your eyes and ears and mouth and nose? You can get Vuzix Smart Glasses, Beats headphones, the Hapifork smart eating utensil and -- well, unless Sony takes The Onion's suggestion and makes nose buds, you might be out of luck there.
In any case, the cyborgification of America is afoot (quite literally, if Google ever takes its concept shoe farther than the prototype stage). Alas, those lusting after a pair of Google shoes will likely have to wait for some time as, again, Google told multiple reporters that what it was showing was nothing but a prototype, and that it had no current plans to take the shoe to market.
Until then, you'll have to satisfy yourself with wearing tiny, motion-sensing, Internet-connected computerized devices everywhere else on your body. You can still probably make a Google+ account for your Florsheims, though.
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