Handyman invents shoes that replace sight for the blind

Today’s MF Dnes has a pretty cool feature about a Czech inventor who provides further proof of those Golden Czech Hands. The translation is my own handiwork.

Handyman invents shoes that replace sight for the blind

“Put your shoes on and it’s like you can see,” exclaim blind people when they talk about a new invention patented two months ago by retiree Antonín KaÅ¡para of Hluk, a village near Uherské hradiÅ¡ťě.

KaÅ¡para’s special shoes warn blind people about obstacles, and work in a similar way to parking sensors in cars. When a step is taken, the device sends out an infrared beam. If the beam is reflected by an obstacle, a sensor registers it and the heel starts vibrating.

“I’ve been working on it since the spring. Why? That’d be like asking a mountainclimber why he conquers mountains. Because it’s a challenge,” the inventor says.

“Mr. KaÅ¡para has managed – on a shoestring budget [gratuitous pun translated from the Czech na koleně, or “on his knee” – ed] – to do something English scientists with millions of pounds have tried unsuccessfully to accomplish,” said Viktor Dudr, vice president of the United Organization of the Blind and Partially-Sighted.

Blind people already have devices that warn of possible difficulties when walking, but in order to register a warning signal, they have to wear earphones. “And that’s a handicap, because hearing is incredibly important for us as blind people,” Dudr said.

“Vibrating shoes are much better in this respect. They alert you to every drop-off and uneven spot,” Dudr said in praise of the invention.

As for when the shoes will make it to market, Antonín KaÅ¡para cannot make a guess. He is carefully considering whom he will entrust his invention to. “I don’t want these shoes to be made by some small company that the big giants find a way around and then take over,” KaÅ¡para explains. He himself can produce the shoes for CZK 500 (around USD $20), explaining that he uses tools that he obtained cheaply.

Each shoe has six integrated circuits and ten transistors. When you add a battery that lasts for a day of walking, that’s about all one needs. “I of course keep some secrets for myself,” the retiree laughs.

KaÅ¡para’s vibrating shoes are no random invention, either. Several years ago he started changing black-and-white TVs to color, and holds a patent for the invention; interested persons had to sign up on a waiting list.

If KaÅ¡para lived with these skills in America, he’d already have a mansion and a pool. “yeah, but we’re not in America here,” laughs the handyman, who lives in on the ground floor of a house by the main road. “I worked for years for people who watched television, and now I’m doing something for blind people who can’t watch.”

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