On Nov. 5, tens of thousands of runners will line up on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City, the world’s largest marathon. Among them will be a blind man wearing a vibrating device that will help him navigate the course.
Simon Wheatcroft, a British runner who, in partnership with designers in the United States, developed over the course of seven years a wristband that provides haptic feedback to aid visually impaired people. The device is called WAYBAND™ and is the first product by WearWorks.
The device emits haptic signals that guide the runner towards the destination without being obtrusive. The user pairs the device with a smartphone app similar to how a Fitbit or Apple Watch works, and then programs the destination into the app. During the race, the WAYBAND™ will provide slight vibrations to tell Wheatcroft when to turn.
“This will be my third New York marathon, but undoubtedly my greatest challenge and most significant run to date,” Wheatcroft told the Mirror.
“Technology has enabled me to strive for the impossible. I want to continue using it to push the boundaries of what I am capable of achieving — and to ensure technologies exist that can assist everybody, whether they’re running a marathon or simply walking through their home town.”
Wheatcroft, who runs his own website called &Adapt and is a self-described “storyteller, technologist, adventurer, and inclusivity consultant,” became blind as a teenager due to a genetic disorder, according to his website. After being unable to finish a mountain climb in California due to his lack of vision, he returned to the United Kingdom and began running with the help of a smartphone app and his other senses. In previous marathons, Wheatcroft would run with a buddy to help guide him toward the finish line.
He has also run the Boston Marathon and was the first blind runner to conquer alone Namibia’s Four Deserts marathon, according to his website. Now, he’ll use the WayBand to overcome the daunting New York City Marathon and win the hearts of the race’s spectators.