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Title:
INTELLIGENT ELECTRONIC FOOTWEAR AND LOGIC FOR NAVIGATION ASSISTANCE BY AUTOMATED TACTILE, AUDIO, AND VISUAL FEEDBACK
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/231052
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Presented are intelligent electronic footwear and apparel with controller-automated features, methods for making/operating such footwear and apparel, and control systems for executing automated features of such footwear and apparel. A method for operating an intelligent electronic shoe (IES) includes receiving, e.g., via a controller through a wireless communications device from a GPS satellite service, location data of a user. The controller also receives, e.g., from a backend server-class computer or other remote computing node, location data for a target object or site, such as a virtual shoe hidden at a virtual spot. The controller retrieves or predicts path plan data including a derived route for traversing from the user's location to the target's location within a geographic area. The controller then transmits command signals to a navigation alert system mounted to the IES's shoe structure to output visual, audio, and/or tactile cues that guide the user along the derived route.

Inventors:
ANDON CHRISTOPHER (US)
PHAM HIEN TOMMY (US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2021/028414
Publication Date:
November 18, 2021
Filing Date:
April 21, 2021
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
NIKE INNOVATE CV (US)
NIKE INC (US)
International Classes:
G01C21/20; A43B3/00; A43C11/16; G08G1/005
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NAY, David S. et al. (US)
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Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed:

1. An intelligent electronic shoe (IES) for assisting a user with navigating to a target object or site in a geographic area, the IES comprising: a shoe structure configured to attach to and support thereon a foot of the user; a navigation alert system mounted to the shoe structure and configured to generate visible, audible, and/or haptic outputs responsive to command signals; a wireless communications device configured to wirelessly communicate with a remote computing node; and a controller communicatively connected to the navigation alert system and the wireless communications device, the controller being programmed to: determine a user location of the user; receive, from the remote computing node, a target location of the target object or site; determine path plan data including a derived route for traversing from the user location to the target location within the geographic area; and transmit command signals to the navigation alert system to output visual, audio, and/or tactile cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

2. The IES of claim 1, wherein the path plan data further includes a sequence of navigation instructions for gaited locomotion from the user location to the target location, and wherein each of the command signals corresponds to a calibrated navigation alert system cue indicative of a respective navigation instruction in the sequence of navigation instructions.

3. The IES of claim 2, wherein the controller is further programmed to: track real-time movement of the user along the derived route; and determine if each new user location in a succession of new user locations along the derived route corresponds to one of the navigation instructions in the sequence of navigation instructions, wherein each of the command signals is transmitted responsive to a determination that one of the new user locations corresponds to the respective navigation instruction associated with the command signal.

4. The IES of claim 3, wherein each of the navigation instructions includes: go forward, go backward, go left, go right, speed up, slow down, start, stop, and/or turn around.

5. The IES of any one of claims 1 to 4, wherein the controller is further programmed to transmit a start command signal to the navigation alert system to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue configured to notify the user to begin traversing along the derived route.

6. The IES of any one of claims 1 to 5, wherein the controller is further programmed to transmit a finish command signal to the navigation alert system to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue configured to notify the user they have arrived at the target location.

7. The IES of any one of claims 1 to 6, wherein the target object or site includes a virtual object located at a virtual position.

8. The IES of any one of claims 1 to 7, wherein the navigation alert system includes a haptic transducer, and wherein the command signals cause the haptic transducer to generate haptic cues.

9. The IES of claim 8, further comprising a shoelace or strap attached to the shoe structure, and wherein the haptic transducer includes a lace motor mounted on or inside the shoe structure and configured to selectively transition the shoelace or strap between a tensioned state and an untensioned state.

10. The IES of claim 9, wherein the shoe structure includes left and right shoe structures each configured to attach to and support thereon a left foot and a right foot of the user, respectively, and wherein the lace motor includes first and second lace motors mounted to the left and right shoe structures, respectively.

11. The IES of claim 10, wherein the command signals activate the first and second lace motors, individually and cooperatively, to thereby generate haptic cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

12. The IES of claim 11, wherein the command signals modulate a motor speed and/or an applied tension of the first and second lace motors to thereby generate additional haptic cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

13. The IES of any one of claims 1 to 12, wherein the navigation alert system includes an audio system, and wherein the command signals cause the audio system to generate predefined sound outputs.

14. The IES of any one of claims 1 to 13, wherein the navigation alert system includes a light system, and wherein the command signals cause the light system to generate predefined light outputs.

15. The IES of any one of claims 1 to 14, wherein the user has a portable electronic device, and wherein the wireless communications device is further configured to wirelessly connect to the portable electronic device and thereby wirelessly communicate with the remote computing node.

16. The IES of any one of claims 1 to 15, further comprising a sensor mounted to the shoe structure, communicatively connected to the controller, and configured to detect a presence of the foot of the user in the shoe structure, and wherein the controller is further programmed to receive a sensor signal from the sensor indicative of the foot being in the shoe structure, the controller transmitting the command signals in response to receiving the sensor signal.

17. The IES of any one of claims 1 to 16, wherein the target location of the target object or site includes a geofence, and wherein the controller is further programmed to transmit, responsive to detection of the user breaching the geofence, a finish command signal to the navigation alert system to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue configured to notify the user they have reached the target object or site.

18. A method of operating an intelligent electronic shoe (IES) for assisting a user with navigating to a target object or location in a geographic area, the IES including a shoe structure configured to attach to and support thereon a foot of the user, the method comprising: receiving, via a controller through a wireless communications device, location data indicative of a user location of the user; receiving, via the controller through the wireless communications device from a remote computing node, location data indicative of a target location of the target object or site; determining, via the controller, path plan data including a derived route for traversing from the user location to the target location within the geographic area; and transmitting, via the controller to a navigation alert system mounted to the shoe structure, command signals to output visual, audio, and/or tactile cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the path plan data further includes a sequence of navigation instructions for gaited locomotion from the user location to the target location, and wherein each of the command signals corresponds to a calibrated navigation alert system cue indicative of a respective navigation instruction in the sequence of navigation instructions..

20. The method of claim 19, further comprising: tracking real-time movement of the user along the derived route; and determining if each new user location in a succession of new user locations along the derived route corresponds to one of the navigation instructions in the sequence of navigation instructions, wherein each of the command signals is transmitted responsive to a determination that one of the new user locations corresponds to the respective navigation instruction associated with the command signal.

21. The method of any one of claims 18 to 20, further comprising transmitting, via the controller to the navigation alert system, a start command signal to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue configured to notify the user to begin traversing along the derived route.

22. The method of any one of claims 18 to 21, further comprising transmitting, via the controller to the navigation alert system, a finish command signal to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue configured to notify the user they have arrived at the target location.

23. The method of any one of claims 18 to 22, wherein the target object or site includes a virtual object located at a virtual position.

24. The method of any one of claims 18 to 23, wherein the navigation alert system includes a haptic transducer, and wherein the command signals cause the haptic transducer to generate haptic cues.

25. The method of claim 24, wherein the haptic transducer includes a lace motor mounted on or inside the shoe structure and configured to selectively transition a shoelace or strap attached to the shoe structure between a tensioned state and an untensioned state.

26. The method of claim 25, wherein the shoe structure includes left and right shoe structures each configured to attach to and support thereon left and right feet of the user, respectively, and wherein the lace motor includes first and second lace motors mounted to the left and right shoe structures, respectively.

27. The method of claim 26, wherein the command signals activate the first and second lace motors, individually and cooperatively, to thereby generate haptic cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

28. The method of claim 27, wherein the command signals modulate a motor speed and/or an applied tension of the first and second lace motors to thereby generate additional haptic cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

29. The method of any one of claims 18 to 28, wherein the navigation alert system includes an audio system and/or a light system, and wherein the command signals cause the audio system to generate predefined sound outputs and/or the light system to generate predefined light outputs.

30. The method of any one of claims 18 to 29, wherein the user has a portable electronic device, and wherein the wireless communications device wirelessly connects to the portable electronic device to thereby wirelessly communicate with the remote computing node.

Description:
INTELLIGENT ELECTRONIC FOOTWEAR AND LOGIC FOR NAVIGATION ASSISTANCE BY AUTOMATED TACTILE, AUDIO, AND

VISUAL FEEDBACK

CLAIM OF PRIORITY AND CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims the benefit of and priority to U.S. Patent Application No. 16/874,944, which was filed on May 15, 2020.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present disclosure relates generally to wearable electronic devices. More specifically, aspects of this disclosure relate to systems, methods, and devices for enabling automated features of intelligent electronic footwear and apparel.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Articles of footwear, such as shoes, boots, slippers, sandals, and the like, are generally composed of two primary elements: an upper for securing the footwear to a user’s foot; and a sole structure for providing subjacent support for the foot. Uppers may be fabricated from a variety of materials - including textiles, foams, polymers, natural and synthetic leathers, etc. - that are stitched, welded, or adhesively bonded together to form a shell or harness for securely receiving a foot. For sandals and slippers, the upper may have an open toe or open heel construction, or may be generally limited to a series of straps that extend over the instep and, in some designs, around the ankle. Conversely, boot and shoe designs incorporate a full upper with a closed toe and heel construction to enclose therein the user’s foot. An ankle opening through a rear quarter portion of the upper provides access to the footwear’s interior, facilitating entry and removal of the foot into and from the upper. A shoelace or strap may be utilized to secure the foot within the upper.

[0004] The sole structure is generally attached to a lower portion of the upper, positioned between the user’s foot and the ground. In many articles of footwear, including boots and athletic shoes, the sole structure is a layered construction that generally incorporates a comfort-enhancing insole, an impact-mitigating midsole, and a surface-contacting outsole. The insole, which may be located partially or entirely within the upper, is a thin and compressible member that provides a contact surface for the underside “plantar region” of the user’s foot. By comparison, the midsole is mounted underneath the insole, forming a middle layer of the sole structure. In addition to attenuating ground reaction forces, the midsole may help to control foot motion and impart stability. Secured to the underside of the midsole is an outsole that forms the ground-contacting portion of the footwear. The outsole is usually fashioned from a durable and wear-resistant material that includes a tread pattern for improved traction.

SUMMARY

[0005] Presented herein are intelligent electronic footwear with attendant control logic for enabling automated footwear capabilities, methods for making and methods for using such footwear, and control systems for provisioning automated features of intelligent electronic footwear. By way of example, there is presented an Internet of Adaptive Apparel and Footwear (IoAAF) system that wirelessly communicates with an intelligent electronic shoe (IES) to provision communication between the IES and: (1) a wireless-enabled device (footwear-to-device (F2D)); (2) a third-party IES (footwear-to-footwear (F2F)); (3) a motor vehicle (footwear-to-vehicle (F2V)); (4) an intelligent transportation or other infrastructure system (footwear-to-infrastructure (F2I)); and/or (5) a grid, network, pedestrian, etc. (footwear-to-everything (F2X)). In a representative implementation, an IES is equipped with a detection tag, such as a radio frequency (RF) transponder, that receives an incoming prompt signal. Prompt signals may be broadcast by a transmitter-detector module mounted to a stationary structure, such as a building, lamp post, or traffic signal pole, etc., or to a moving structure, such as a person, bicycle, Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 3, 4 or 5 autonomous vehicle, etc.

[0006] An IES detection tag may reply to the incoming prompt signal, which may have an RF power with a first frequency, by retransmitting the incoming signal as a transparent output signal, which may have an RF power with a second frequency. The transponder may be outfit with a frequency filter that limits incoming signals to those with the first frequency, a frequency converter that converts the incoming signal into the transparent output signal, and an amplifier that intensifies the output signal based on the incoming signal. Using vehicle-mounted or structure-mounted RF transmitter-detector modules to sweep an upcoming or surrounding area for response signals output by an IES transponder facilitates pedestrian collision avoidance by providing advance warning prior to field of view recognition. [0007] By placing a detection tag on an IES, and automating communication between the IES detection tag and a complementary transmitter-detector mounted on a vehicle, street pole, nearby building, etc., the networked IoAAF system allows the connected parties to “see ahead” of an impending collision by eliminating the need for direct line-of-sight sensing and provides upcoming “awareness” before the IES is in close proximity to the vehicle. In effect, the IoAAF system architecture helps to eliminate false negatives caused by standard sensor hardware being unable to effectively monitor pedestrians concealed at blind comers or behind other visual obstructions. Collision avoidance can be further enhanced by automating an audible, visible, and/or tactile warning to the pedestrian via the IES or by altering pedestrian flow through modulation of crosswalk signal timing. In addition to enabling pedestrian safety recognition, disclosed IoAAF systems can be employed in a manufacturing facility, e.g., to prevent robot-borne injury to assembly line workers, in a storage facility, e.g., to avert collision between a worker and a forklift or automated guided vehicle (AGV), or at a road construction site, e.g., to protect construction workers from passing vehicles. User movement - start, stop, left, right, speed up, slow down, etc. - may be governed via selective actuation of audio, visual, and tactile feedback devices resident to the IES.

[0008] For F2V and F2I applications, the IoAAF system can automate communication with the smart footwear/apparel, e.g., to conduct a pedestrian collision threat assessment based on a myriad of available data. For instance, the F2I system may conduct a pedestrian collision threat assessment prior to line-of-sight between the moving object and IES user by aggregating, fusing, and analyzing: IES-generated user dynamics data (e.g., location, velocity, trajectory, accel./decek, etc.); user behavioral data (e.g., historical behavior at particular comer of intersection, historical behavior at intersections generally, historical behavior in current surrounding conditions, etc.); environmental data (e.g., intersection with red light vs. green light, residential vs. urban seting, inclement weather conditions vs. optimal driving conditions); crowd- sourced data (dynamics and behavior of other pedestrians near the IES user whom are also wearing intelligent footwear/apparel). Interoperable component communication is typically wireless and bi-directional, with data being delivered to and from infrastructure components over an ad hoc network e.g., using dedicated short-range communication (DSRC). Traffic management supervision systems can use IES, infrastructure, and vehicle data to set variable speed limits and adjust traffic signal phase and timing.

[0009] To enable wireless communications between an IES and a remote computing node, the IES may piggyback a communication session established by the user’s smartphone, handheld computing device, or other portable electronic device with wireless communications capabilities. Alternatively, the IES may operate as a standalone device with a resident wireless communications device that is packaged within the shoe structure. Other peripheral hardware may include a resident controller, shortwave antenna, rechargeable battery, resident memory, SIM card, etc., all of which are housed inside the shoe structure. An IES may be equipped with a human-machine interface (HMI) that allows the user to interact with the footwear and/or the IoAAF system. For instance, one or more electroactive polymer (EAP) sensors may be woven into or formed as patches mounted on the shoe structure and operable to receive user inputs that allow the user to control operational aspects of the IES. Likewise, any of the attendant operations for executing an automated footwear feature may be executed locally via the IES controller or may be offboarded in a distributing computing fashion for execution by the smartphone, handheld computing device, IoAAF system, or any combination thereof.

[0010] As yet a further option, execution of any one or more of the herein described footwear features may initially require security authentication of a user via the IES controller and/or an IoAAF system server computer. For instance, a distributed array of sensors within the shoe structure communicates with the IES controller to perform biometric validation, such as confirming a user’s weight (e.g., via pressure sensors), shoe size (e.g., via Electro Adaptive Reactive Lacing (EARL)), toe print (e.g., via an optical fingerprint sensor), gait profile, or other suitable method. As an extension of this concept, any of the foregoing sensing devices may be employed as a binary (ON/OFF) switch to confirm the IES is actually on a user’s foot when attempting to execute an automated feature. Failure to authenticate, validate, or confirm user presence may result in the IES being rendered inoperable and/or transmission of an electronic notification to a registered owner or the IoAAF system that unauthorized use has been detected.

[0011] Provisioning wireless data exchanges to facilitate execution of an automated feature may require the IES be registered with the IoAAF system. For instance, a user may record an IES serial number with the IoAAF system, which will then issue a validation key to a personal account, e.g., a “digital locker” operating on the user’s smartphone, tablet, PC, or laptop, to provide additional authentication. Registration may be completed manually, e.g., via the user, or digitally, e.g., via a barcode or near-field communication (NFC) tag on the shoe. A unique virtual shoe may be assigned to an IES and stored, for example, in the digital locker. Each virtual shoe may be backed by a blockchain security technology designed to help guarantee uniqueness and authenticity, such as a cryptographic hash function, a trusted timestamp, correlating transaction data, etc. Additional information regarding cryptographic digital assets for articles of footwear can be found, for example, in U.S. Patent No. 10,505,726 Bl, to Christopher Andon, et ak, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety and for all purposes.

[0012] While described with reference to an article of footwear as a representative application for the novel concepts presented herein, it is envisioned that many of the disclosed options and features may be applied to other wearable apparel, including clothing, headgear, eyewear, wrist wear, neck wear, leg wear, and the like. It is also envisioned that the disclosed features be implemented as part of an augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) device or system that is operable to superimpose data, notifications, and other visual indicators to carry out any of the techniques and options presented above and below.

[0013] Aspects of this disclosure are directed to methods for manufacturing and methods for operating any of the disclosed systems and devices. In an example, a method is presented for automating collaborative operations between an intelligent transportation management (ITM) system and one or more intelligent electronic shoes. Each IES is fabricated with an upper for attaching to a user’s foot, and a sole structure attached to the underside of the upper for supporting the user’s foot. This representative method includes, in any order and in any combination with any of the above or below disclosed features and options: transmitting, via a transmitter-detector module that is communicatively connected to a traffic system controller of the ITM system, a prompt signal to a detection tag attached to the IES’s sole structure and/or upper; receiving, via the transmitter-detector module, a response signal generated by the detection tag responsive to receiving the prompt signal; determining, via the traffic system controller based on the response signal, the user’s current location; identifying a traffic signal that is proximate the user’s location and communicatively connected to the traffic system controller; determining the traffic signal’s current (first) operating state; and transmitting a command signal by the traffic system controller to the traffic signal to switch from the current (first) operating state to a different (second) operating state.

[0014] Additional aspects of the present disclosure are directed to networked control systems and attendant logic for executing automated features of electronic footwear and apparel. For instance, a system is presented for automating collaborative operations between an intelligent transportation management system and an intelligent electronic shoe. The system includes a transmitter-detector module that mounts to a stationary traffic signal pole or similar structure and broadcasts a prompt signal. The system also includes a detection tag that mounts to the sole structure and/or upper of the IES, and is operable to receive the transmitter-detector module’s prompt signal and reactively transmit a response signal back to the transmitter- detector module. A traffic system controller is communicatively connected to the transmitter-detector module and operable to execute memory-stored instructions to perform various operations. The system controller is programmed to: determine a real-time location of the user based on the response signal output by the IES detection tag; determine a current (first) operating state (e.g., green signal phase) of a traffic signal proximate the user’s location and communicatively connected to the traffic system controller; and, transmit a phase-change command signal to the traffic signal to switch from the current (first) operating state to a distinct (second) operating state (e.g., red signal phase).

[0015] For any of the disclosed systems, methods, and devices, the IES may be equipped with a footwear controller and one or more dynamics sensors, all of which are mounted to the sole structure and/or upper. The dynamics sensor(s) generates and outputs sensor data that is indicative of a speed and/or heading of the IES. The sensor data is transmitted via the IES footwear controller to the traffic system controller, the latter of which uses the received data to determine whether or not to transmit the command signal to the traffic signal for changing the signal’s operating state. For instance, the traffic system controller may use the dynamics sensor data to determine an expected incursion time that the IES will likely breach a traffic lane that is regulated by the traffic signal. The traffic system controller will then determine an estimated phase change time as the difference between a current time and a preprogrammed phase change time at which the traffic signal is scheduled to switch from the first operating state to the second operating state. Once calculated, the traffic system controller will determine if the expected incursion time is less than the estimated phase change time; if so, the traffic system controller automatically transmits the phase-change command signal to the traffic signal. The traffic system controller may also determine: (1) if the speed of the IES is substantially equal to zero, and (2) if the heading of the IES is in a direction away from the traffic lane regulated by the traffic signal. If either (1) or (2) returns a positive determination, the traffic system controller is programmed to not transmit the phase-change command signal to the traffic signal.

[0016] For any of the disclosed systems, methods, and devices, the traffic system controller may ascertain a current location, speed, and/or trajectory of a motor vehicle in the traffic lane regulated by the traffic signal. The traffic system controller will contemporaneously determine whether or not the user’s current location is within a predetermined proximity to the vehicle’s current location. In this instance, the phase- change command signal is transmitted to the traffic signal in response to a determination that the user’s location is within proximity to the vehicle’s location. As yet a further option, the traffic system controller may transmit a pedestrian collision warning signal to the footwear controller responsive to the user’s current location being within the predetermined proximity to the vehicle’s current location. The footwear controller may respond to receipt of this pedestrian collision warning signal by transmitting one or more command signals to a resident alert system, which is attached to the sole structure/upper and operable to generate a predetermined visible, audible, and/or tactile alert that is perceptible by the user.

[0017] For any of the disclosed systems, methods, and devices, the detection tag may include an RF transponder that is mounted to the IES sole structure/upper. In this instance, the prompt signal has a first RF power with a first frequency, and the response signal has a second RF power with a second frequency that is distinct from the first frequency. The prompt signal may include an embedded data set; the response signal retransmits at least a portion of the embedded data set back to the transmitter-detector module. The RF transponder may be equipped with an RF antenna and a frequency filter connected to the RF antenna. The frequency filter is operable to reject any RF signals having an RF power with a frequency that is distinct from the first frequency.

[0018] For any of the disclosed systems, methods, and devices, the resident footwear controller may transmit real-time user position and dynamics data to the traffic system controller. The traffic system controller, in turn, fuses the real-time user position data and user dynamics data to determine a pedestrian collision threat value. This pedestrian collision threat value is predictive of intrusion of the user with respect to the motor vehicle’s current location and predicted route. The footwear controller may also aggregate and transmit behavioral data that is indicative of the user’s historical behavior when wearing the IES. In this instance, the pedestrian collision threat value is further based on fusion of the user position and dynamics data with the behavioral data. As another option, the traffic system controller may collect crowd-sourced data that is indicative of the behavior of multiple individuals in proximity to the user. In this instance, the pedestrian collision threat value is also based on fusion of the behavioral data, user position data, and/or user dynamics data with the crowd-sourced data. The traffic system controller may also aggregate and transmit environmental data that is indicative of characteristics of the user’s surrounding environment. The pedestrian collision threat value may be further based on fusion of the behavioral data, user position data, user dynamics data, and/or crowd- sourced data with the environmental data.

[0019] For any of the disclosed systems, methods, and devices, the traffic system controller may transmit a pedestrian collision warning signal to the footwear controller. Upon receipt of the warning signal, the footwear controller may automatically respond by transmitting an activation command signal to a resident haptic transducer thereby causing the haptic transducer to generate a predetermined tactile alert designed to warn the user of an impending collision with a motor vehicle. Optionally or alternatively, the footwear controller may automatically respond to receiving the pedestrian collision warning signal by outputting an activation command signal to a resident audio system causing an associated audio component to generate a predetermined audible alert that is designed to warn the user of the impending collision. As yet a further option, the resident footwear controller may automatically respond to receiving the pedestrian collision warning signal by transmitting an activation command signal to a resident light system causing an associated lighting element to generate a predetermined visible alert that is designed to warn the user of the impending collision with a motor vehicle.

[0020] Also presented herein are intelligent electronic footwear and apparel with attendant control logic and resident navigation alert systems for provisioning user navigation assistance via automated tactile, audio, and/or visual feedback. It is envisioned that disclosed IES and IES control systems may be utilized as an input and/or output device for location-based and navigation-based gaming, tours, travel, entertainment, marketing, and the like. In a non-limiting example, a pair of auto tensioning lace motors packaged on or within the shoe structures of a pair of IES are operated, individually and collaboratively, as tactile force-feedback devices to provide navigation instructions to the user. One representative application would be to provide the user with tum-by-tum instructions via resident “in-shoe” tactile, audio, and/or visual feedback devices to help them navigate from a current “start” position or a designated origin to a desired “end” position or a select succession of stop points. [0021] Another representative application of IES-based navigation assistance includes directions to a physical or virtual object or checkpoint, which may separately be perceived in VR or AR (e.g., accessing content through a SNKRS STASH™ or CRYPTOKICKS™ feature). For instance, a user may be prompted to “hunt” for a pair of virtual CRYPTOKICKS™ that are “hidden” within a brick-and-mortar store by using a photographic “snap” or augmented reality function on a wireless-enabled, handheld computing device. Upon determining the user’s real-time location, a set of instructions is derived for circumnavigating the store to locate the target virtual object. These instructions are transformed into a corresponding sequence of haptic cues, each of which is adapted to correspond to a specific action (e.g., go forward, go backward, go left, go right, start, stop, etc.). The haptic cues are then relayed to the user via sequential activation and modulation of the lace motors. For Additional information regarding target searching for tangible and virtual objects using geocaching may be found, for example, in U.S. Patent Appl. Pub. No. 2019/0080342 Al, to Christopher Andon, et al., which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety and for all purposes.

[0022] Aspects of this disclosure are directed to intelligent footwear and apparel for provisioning user navigation assistance via automated tactile, audio and/or visual feedback. In an example, there are presented intelligent electronic shoes for assisting users with navigating to target objects and/or target positions. The IES includes shoe structure, such as a footwear upper mounted onto a sole structure, for attaching to and supporting thereon a user’s foot. A navigation alert system, which is mounted on or in the IES shoe structure, is selectively operable to generate visible, audible, and/or haptic outputs responsive to electronic command signals. The IES is also equipped with a wireless communications device operable to wirelessly communicate with a remote computing node, such as provisioning data exchanges with a backend or middleware server-class computer through a piggy-backed session with a handheld smartphone or wireless-enabled tablet computer.

[0023] Continuing with the discussion of the above example, a resident or remote controller communicatively connects to the navigation alert system and wireless communications device. The controller is programmed to receive, retrieve, calculate, estimate, etc. (collectively “determine”) location data for the user, and contemporaneously receive, from the remote computing node, location data for the target object/site. Using this information, the controller determines path plan data, including a derived route for traversing from the user’s location to the target’s location within the designated geographic area. Once the path plan data is acquired, the controller transmits command signals to the navigation alert system to output visual, audio, and/or tactile cues engineered to guide the user along the derived route. [0024] Additional aspects of this disclosure are directed to methods for making and methods for using intelligent footwear and apparel to provision user navigation assistance. In an example, a method is presented for operating an IES to assist a user with navigating to a target object or location in a geographic area. This representative method includes, in any order and in any combination with any of the above or below disclosed features and options: receiving, via a controller through a wireless communications device, location data indicative of a user location of the user; receiving, via the controller through the wireless communications device from a remote computing node, location data indicative of a target location of the target object or site; determining, via the controller, path plan data including a derived route for traversing from the user location to the target location within the geographic area; and transmitting, via the controller to a navigation alert system mounted to the shoe structure, command signals to output visual, audio, and/or tactile cues that guide the user along the derived route.

[0025] For any of the disclosed systems, methods, and devices, the path plan data may include a sequence of navigation instructions for gaited locomotion from the user’s location to the target’s location. In this instance, each command signal corresponds to a calibrated navigation alert system cue that is indicative of a respective navigation instruction. The controller may also track real-time movement of the user along the derived route, and determine if each new user location in a succession of new user locations along the route corresponds to one of the navigation instructions in the path plan data. In this instance, each command signal is transmitted responsive to a determination that one of the new user locations corresponds to the respective navigation instruction associated with that command signal. Each navigation instruction includes one or more of the following: go forward, go backward, go left, go right, speed up, slow down, go up, go down, start, stop, turn around, etc.

[0026] For any of the disclosed systems, methods, and devices, the controller may also transmit a start command signal to the navigation alert system to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue that is designed to notify the user to begin traversing along the derived route. In the same vein, the controller may also transmit a finish command signal to the navigation alert system to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue that is designed to notify the user that they have arrived at the target location. For at least some applications, the target object/site is a virtual object located at a virtual position. The target location may be delineated by a virtual geofence; the controller may respond to the user breaching this geofence by transmitting a finish command signal to the alert system to output a feedback cue that notifies the user they have reached the target object/site.

[0027] For any of the disclosed systems, methods, and devices, the navigation alert system includes a haptic transducer that is mounted to the sole structure and operable, in response to command signals, to generate haptic cues to assist with user navigation. In some system architectures, the haptic transducer is a lace motor that is mounted on or inside the shoe structure and is operable to selectively transition a shoelace or strap of the IES between tensioned and untensioned states. The IES may include left and right shoes that attach to and support thereon the user’s left and right feet, respectively. In this instance, the haptic transducer includes discrete lace motors mounted to the shoe structures of the left and right shoes. The controller generated command signals activate these two lace motors, individually and cooperatively, to thereby generate the haptic cues for guiding the user along the derived route. As yet a further option, the command signals modulate the motor speed and/or applied tension of the two lace motors to thereby generate haptic cues for guiding the user along the derived route.

[0028] The above summary does not represent every embodiment or every aspect of this disclosure. Rather, the foregoing summary merely provides an exemplification of some of the novel concepts set forth herein. The above features and advantages, and other features and attendant advantages of this disclosure, will be readily apparent from the following description of illustrated examples and representative modes for carrying out the present disclosure when taken in connection with the accompanying drawings and appended claims. Moreover, this disclosure expressly includes any and all combinations and subcombinations of the elements and features presented above and below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0029] FIG. 1 is a lateral side-view illustration of a representative intelligent electronic shoe with controller-automated footwear features in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure.

[0030] FIG. 2 is a partially schematic, bottom-view illustration of the representative intelligent electronic shoe of FIG. 1.

[0031] FIG. 3 is a partially schematic, perspective-view illustration of a representative user wearing a pair of the intelligent electronic shoes of FIGS. 1 and 2 during a wireless data exchange to execute one or more automated footwear features in accord with aspects of the disclosed concepts.

[0032] FIG. 4 is an elevated, perspective-view illustration of multiple representative users each wearing a pair of the IES of FIGS. 1 and 2 during a wireless data exchange with a representative intelligent transportation management system to execute one or more automated footwear features and one or more automated traffic system features.

[0033] FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating a representative automated footwear feature protocol that may correspond to memory-stored instructions executed by resident or remote control-logic circuitry, programmable controller, or other computer-based device or network of devices in accord with aspects of the disclosed concepts.

[0034] FIG. 6 is a perspective-view illustration of a representative user employing a pair of the IES of FIGS. 1 and 2 to automate interactions with a security system of a representative building in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure.

[0035] FIG. 7 is a plan-view illustration of a representative user employing a pair of the IES of FIGS. 1 and 2 to automate interactions with one or more subsystems of a home automation system in accord with aspects of the present disclosure. [0036] FIG. 8 is a partially schematic, perspective view illustration of a representative electronic navigation assistance system including a representative wireless-enabled, handheld computing device communicating with an IES equipped with a navigation alert system in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure. [0037] FIGS. 9A-9D are partially schematic illustrations of the representative electronic navigation assistance system of FIG. 8 showing the representative handheld computing device communicating with the IES to execute a user-navigation assistance application to assist a user with locating a representative target object and/or location. [0038] FIG. 10 is a flowchart illustrating a representative IES navigation algorithm for assisting a user with circumnavigating a predefined path, which may correspond to memory-stored instructions executed by a resident or remote system controller, control-logic circuitry, programmable electronic control unit, or other integrated circuit (IC) device or network of IC devices in accord with aspects of the disclosed concepts

[0039] The present disclosure is amenable to various modifications and alternative forms, and some representative embodiments are shown by way of example in the drawings and will be described in detail herein. It should be understood, however, that the novel aspects of this disclosure are not limited to the particular forms illustrated in the above-enumerated drawings. Rather, the disclosure is to cover all modifications, equivalents, combinations, subcombinations, permutations, groupings, and alternatives falling within the scope of this disclosure as encompassed by the appended claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0040] This disclosure is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms. There are shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail representative embodiments of the disclosure with the understanding that these representative examples are provided as an exemplification of the disclosed principles, not limitations of the broad aspects of the disclosure. To that extent, elements and limitations that are described in the Abstract, Technical Field, Background, Summary, and Detailed Description sections, but not explicitly set forth in the claims, should not be incorporated into the claims, singly or collectively, by implication, inference, or otherwise. [0041] For purposes of the present detailed description, unless specifically disclaimed: the singular includes the plural and vice versa; the words “and” and “or” shall be both conjunctive and disjunctive; the words “any” and “all” shall both mean “any and all”; and the words “including,” “comprising,” “having,” “containing,” and the like shall each mean “including without limitation.” Moreover, words of approximation, such as “about,” “almost,” “substantially,” “approximately,” “generally,” and the like, may be used herein in the sense of “at, near, or nearly at,” or “within 0-5% of,” or “within acceptable manufacturing tolerances,” or any logical combination thereof, for example. Lastly, directional adjectives and adverbs, such as fore, aft, medial, lateral, proximal, distal, vertical, horizontal, front, back, left, right, etc., may be with respect to an article of footwear when worn on a user’s foot and operatively oriented with a ground-engaging portion of the sole structure seated on a flat surface, for example.

[0042] Referring now to the drawings, wherein like reference numbers refer to like features throughout the several views, there is shown in FIG. 1 a representative article of footwear, which is designated generally at 10 and portrayed herein for purposes of discussion as an athletic shoe or “sneaker.” The illustrated footwear 10 - also referred to herein as “intelligent electronic shoe” or “IES” for brevity - is merely an exemplary application with which novel aspects and features of this disclosure may be practiced. In the same vein, implementation of the present concepts for a wearable electronic device that is worn on a human’s foot should also be appreciated as a representative application of the concepts disclosed herein. It will therefore be understood that aspects and features of this disclosure may be integrated into other footwear designs and may be incorporated into any logically relevant type of wearable electronic device worn on any part of the body. As used herein, the terms “shoe” and “footwear,” including permutations thereof, may be used interchangeably and synonymously to reference any relevant type of garment worn on a foot. Lastly, features presented in the drawings are not necessarily to scale and are provided purely for instructional purposes. Thus, the specific and relative dimensions shown in the drawings are not to be construed as limiting.

[0043] The representative article of footwear 10 is generally depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2 as a bipartite construction that is primarily composed of a foot-receiving upper 12 mounted on top of a subjacent sole structure 14. For ease of reference, footwear 10 may be divided into three anatomical regions: a forefoot region RFF, a midfoot region RMF, and a hindfoot (heel) region RHF, as shown in FIG. 2. Footwear 10 may also be divided along a vertical plane into a lateral segment SLA - a distal half of the shoe 10 farthest from the sagittal plane of the human body - and a medial segment SME - a proximal half of the shoe 10 closest to the sagittal plane of the human body. In accordance with recognized anatomical classification, the forefoot region RFF is located at the front of the footwear 10 and generally corresponds with the phalanges (toes), metatarsals, and any interconnecting joints thereof. Interposed between the forefoot and hindfoot regions RFF and RHF is the midfoot region RMF, which generally corresponds with the cuneiform, navicular, and cuboid bones (i.e., the arch area of the foot). Heel region RHF, in contrast, is located at the rear of the footwear 10 and generally corresponds with the talus and calcaneus bones. Both lateral and medial segments SLA and SME of the footwear 10 extend through all three anatomical regions RFF, RMF, RHF, and each corresponds to a respective transverse side of the footwear 10. While only a single shoe 10 for a left foot of a user is shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, a mirrored, substantially identical counterpart for a right foot of a user may be provided, as shown in FIG. 3. Recognizably, the shape, size, material composition, and method of manufacture of the shoe 10 may be varied, singly or collectively, to accommodate practically any conventional or nonconventional application.

[0044] With reference again to FIG. 1, the upper 12 is depicted as having a closed toe and heel configuration that is generally defined by three adjoining sections: a toe box 12A that covers and protects the toes; a vamp 12B that is located aft of the toe box 12A and extends around the lace eyelets 16 and tongue 18; and a rear quarter 12C that is positioned aft of the vamp 12B and includes the rear and sides of the upper 12 that covers the heel. The upper 12 portion of the footwear 10 may be fabricated from any one or combination of a variety of materials, such as textiles, foams, polymers, natural and synthetic leathers, etc., that are stitched, adhesively bonded, or welded together to form an interior void for comfortably receiving a foot. The individual material elements of the upper 12 may be selected and located with respect to the footwear 10 in order to impart desired properties of durability, air-permeability, wear- resistance, flexibility, and comfort, for example. An ankle opening 15 in the rear quarter 12C of the upper 12 provides access to the interior of the shoe 10. A shoelace 20, strap, buckle, or other mechanism may be utilized to modify the girth of the upper 12 to more securely retain the foot within the interior of the shoe 10 as well as to facilitate entry and removal of the foot from the upper 12. Shoelace 20 may be threaded through a series of eyelets in the upper 12; the tongue 18 may extend between the lace 20 and the interior void of the upper 12.

[0045] Sole structure 14 is rigidly secured to the upper 12 such that the sole structure 14 extends between the upper 12 and a support surface upon which a user stands (e.g., the sidewalk Gsi illustrated in FIG. 3). In effect, the sole structure 14 functions as an intermediate support platform that separates the user’s foot from the ground. In addition to attenuating ground reaction forces and providing cushioning for the foot, sole structure 14 of FIGS. 1 and 2 may provide traction, impart stability, and help to limit various foot motions, such as inadvertent foot inversion and eversion. In accordance with the illustrated example, the sole structure 14 is fabricated as a sandwich structure with a top-most insole 22, an intermediate midsole 24, and a bottom-most outsole 26. Insole 22 is shown located partially within the interior void of the footwear 10, firmly secured to a lower portion of the upper 12, such that the insole 22 is located adjacent a plantar surface of the foot. Underneath the insole 22 is a midsole 24 that incorporates one or more materials or embedded elements that enhance the comfort, performance, and/or ground-reaction-force attenuation properties of footwear 10. These elements and materials may include, individually or in any combination, a polymer foam material, such as polyurethane or ethyl-vinyl acetate (EVA), filler materials, moderators, air-filled bladders, plates, lasting elements, or motion control members. Outsole 26, which may be absent in some configurations of footwear 10, is secured to a lower surface of the midsole 24. The outsole 26 may be formed from a rubber material that provides a durable and wear-resistant surface for engaging the ground. In addition, outsole 26 may also be textured to enhance the traction (i.e., friction) properties between footwear 10 and the underlying support surface.

[0046] FIG. 3 is a partially schematic illustration of an exemplary IES data network and communications system, designated generally as 30, for provisioning wireless data exchanges to execute one or more automated footwear features for a pair of intelligent electronic shoes 10 worn by a user or client 11. While illustrating a single user 11 communicating over the IES system 30 with a single motor vehicle 32, it is envisioned that any number of users may communicate with any number of motor vehicles or other remote computing nodes that are suitably equipped for wirelessly exchanging information and data. One or both IES 10 of FIG. 3 communicatively couples to a remote host system 34 or a cloud computing system 36 via a wireless communications network 38. Wireless data exchanges between the IES 10 and IES system 30 may be conducted directly - in configurations in which the IES 10 is equipped as a standalone device - or indirectly - by pairing and piggy backing the IES 10 onto a smartphone 40, smartwatch 42, wireless fidelity (WiFi) node, or other suitable device. In this regard, the IES 10 may communicate directly with the motor vehicle 32, e.g., via a short-range wireless communication device (e.g., a BLUETOOTH® unit or near field communication (NFC) transceiver), a dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) component, a radio antenna, etc. Only select components of the IES 10 and IES system 30 are shown and will be described in detail herein. Nevertheless, the systems and devices discussed herein can include numerous additional and alternative features, and other available hardware and well- known peripheral components, for example, for carrying out the various methods and functions disclosed herein.

[0047] With continuing reference to FIG. 3, the host system 34 may be implemented as a high-speed server computing device or a mainframe computer capable of handling bulk data processing, resource planning, and transaction processing. For instance, the host system 34 may operate as the host in a client-server interface for conducting any necessary data exchanges and communications with one or more “third party” servers to complete a particular transaction. The cloud computing system 36, on the other hand, may operate as middleware for IoT (Internet of Things), WoT (Web of Things), Internet of Adaptive Apparel and Footwear (IoAAF), and/or M2M (machine-to-machine) services, connecting an assortment of heterogeneous electronic devices with a service-oriented architecture (SOA) via a data network. As an example, cloud computing system 36 may be implemented as a middleware node to provide different functions for dynamically onboarding heterogeneous devices, multiplexing data from each of these devices, and routing the data through reconfigurable processing logic for processing and transmission to one or more destination applications. Network 38 may be any available type of network, including a combination of public distributed computing networks (e.g., Internet) and secured private networks (e.g., local area network, wide area network, virtual private network). It may also include wireless and wireline transmission systems (e.g., satellite, cellular network, terrestrial networks, etc.). In at least some aspects, most if not all data transaction functions carried out by the IES 10 may be conducted over a wireless network, such as a wireless local area network (WLAN) or cellular data network, to ensure freedom of movement of the user 11 and IES 10.

[0048] Footwear 10 is equipped with an assortment of embedded electronic hardware to operate as a hands-free, rechargeable, and intelligent wearable electronic device. The various electronic components of the IES 10 are governed by one or more electronic controller devices, such as a resident footwear controller 44 (FIG. 2) that is packaged inside the sole structure 14 of footwear 10. The footwear controller 44 may comprise any one or various combinations of one or more of: a logic circuit, a dedicated control module, an electronic control unit, a processor, an application specific integrated circuit, or any suitable integrated circuit device, whether resident, remote, or a combination of both. By way of example, the footwear controller 44 may include a plurality of microprocessors, including a master processor, a slave processor, and/or a secondary or parallel processor. Controller 44, as used herein, may comprise any combination of hardware, software, and/or firmware disposed inside and/or outside of the shoe structure of the IES 10 that is configured to communicate with and/or control the transfer of data between the IES 10 and a bus, computer, processor, device, service, and/or network. The footwear controller 44 is generally operable to execute any or all of the various computer program products, software, applications, algorithms, methods and/or other processes disclosed herein. Routines may be executed in real-time, continuously, systematically, sporadically, and/or at regular intervals, for example, each 100 microseconds, 3.125, 6.25, 12.5, 25 and 100 milliseconds, etc., during use or operation of the controller 44.

[0049] Footwear controller 44 may include or may communicate with a resident or remote memory device, such as a resident footwear memory 46 that is packaged inside the sole structure 14 of footwear 10. Resident footwear memory 46 may comprise semiconductor memory, including volatile memory (e.g., a random-access memory (RAM) or multiple RAM) and non-volatile memory (e.g., read only memory (ROM) or an EEPROM), magnetic-disk storage media, optical storage media, flash memory, etc. Long-range communication capabilities with remote networked devices may be provided via one or more or all of a cellular network chipset/component, a satellite service chipset/component, or a wireless modem or chipset/component, all of which are collectively represented at 48 in FIG. 2. Close-range wireless connectivity may be provided via a BLUETOOTH® transceiver, a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag, an NFC device, a DSRC component, and/or a radio antenna, all of which are collectively represented at 50. A resident power supply, such as a lithium ion battery 52 with plug-in or cable-free (induction or resonance) rechargeable capabilities, may be embedded within upper 12 or sole structure 14 of the footwear 10. Wireless communications may be further facilitated through implementation of a BLUETOOTH Low Energy (BLE), category (CAT) Ml, and/or CAT-NB1 wireless interface. The various communications devices described above may be configured to exchange data between devices as part of a systematic or periodic beacon message that is broadcast in a footwear-to-vehicle (F2V) data exchange and/or a footwear-to- every thing (F2X) data exchange, e.g., footwear-to-infrastructure (F2I), footwear-to- pedestrian (F2P), or footwear-to-footwear (F2F).

[0050] Location and movement of the IES 10 and, thus, the user 11 may be tracked via a location tracking device 54, which can reside inside the sole structure 14 or the upper 12 or a combination of both. Location data can be determined through a satellite-based global positioning system (GPS) or other suitable navigation system. In an example, a GPS system may monitor the location of a person, a motor vehicle, or other target object on earth using a collaborating group of orbiting GPS satellites the communicate with a suitable GPS transceiver to thereby generate, in real-time, a time-stamped series of data points. In addition to providing data relating to absolute latitudinal and longitudinal position coordinates of a GPS receiver home by a target object, data provided via the GPS system may be adapted and used to provide information regarding elapsed time during execution of a designated operation, a total distance moved, an elevation or altitude at a specific location, an elevation change within a designated window of time, a movement direction, a movement speed, and the like. Aggregated sets of the foregoing GPS data may be used by the resident footwear controller 44 to estimate a predicted route of the user 11. GPS system data, singly and collectively, may be used to supplement and optionally to calibrate accelerometer-based or other pedometer-based speed and distance data. To this end, information collected by the GPS satellite system may be used to generate correction factors and/or calibration parameters for use by the IES 10 to help ensure accurate sensor data and, thus, optimal system operation.

[0051] Even without a GPS receiver, the IES 10 can determine location and movement information through cooperation with a cellular system via a process known as “trilateration.” A cellular system’s towers and base stations communicate radio signals and are arranged into a network of cells. Cellular devices, such as IES 10, may be equipped with low-power transmitters for communicating with the nearest tower, base station, router, or access point. As a user moves with the IES 10, e.g., from one cell to another, the base stations monitor the strength of the transmitter’s signal. When the IES 10 moves toward the edge of one cell, the transmitter signal strength diminishes for a current tower. At the same time, the base station in the approaching cell detects a strength increase in the signal. As the user moves into a new cell, the towers transfer the signal from one to the next. Resident footwear controller 44 can determine the location of the IES 10 based on measurements of the transmitter signals, such as the angle of approach to the cell tower(s), the respective time it takes for individual signals to travel to multiple towers, and the respective strength of each signal when it reaches a corresponding tower. According to other aspects of the present concepts, one or more movement sensing devices may be integrated into the shoe structure to determine dynamic movement (e.g., translation, rotation, velocity, acceleration, etc.) of the IES 10 with respect to an established datum or reference (e.g., position, spatial orientation, reaction, force, velocity, acceleration, electrical contact, etc.) about or along one or more axes.

[0052] With collective reference to FIGS 1 and 2, the article of footwear 10 may be equipped with a resident lighting system 56 with one or more lighting devices governed by footwear controller 44 to selectively illuminate the shoe structure and surrounding areas thereof. Different types of lighting devices may be employed by the lighting system 56, including light emitting diodes (LEDs), electroluminescent panels (ELP), compact florescent lamps (CFL), high intensity discharge lamps, flexible and inflexible organic LED displays, flat-panel liquid-crystal displays (LCD), as well as other available types of lighting elements. Any number of lighting devices may be disposed on any portion of shoe 10; as shown, a first lighting device 58 is packaged inside the sole structure 14, located within the midfoot region RMF of the footwear 10. First lighting device 58 is positioned immediately adjacent a window 60 (FIG. 1) that seals off a frame aperture extending through a peripheral wall of the sole structure 14 on the lateral side of the shoe 10. This lighting device 58 may be operated in an illuminated or “ON” state, a non-illuminated or “OFF” state, a series of illumination intensities (e.g., low, medium and high light outputs), an assortment of colors, and/or an assortment of illumination patterns. With this arrangement, the first lighting device 58 selectively illuminates a portion of the upper 12, a portion of the sole 14, and a portion of the ground surface Gsi adjacent the IES 10. [0053] With reference now to the flow chart of FIG. 5, an improved method or control strategy for automating a collaborative operation between a wearable electronic device, such as IES 10 of FIGS. 1 and 2, and an intelligent transportation management (ITM) system, which may be represented herein by IES data network and communications system 30 of FIG. 3, is generally described at 100 in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure. Some or all of the operations illustrated in FIG. 5 and described in further detail below may be representative of an algorithm that corresponds to processor-executable instructions that may be stored, for example, in main or auxiliary or remote memory, and executed, for example, by a resident or remote controller, central processing unit (CPU), control logic circuit, or other module or device, to perform any or all of the above or below described functions associated with the disclosed concepts. It should be recognized that the order of execution of the illustrated operation blocks may be changed, additional blocks may be added, and some of the blocks described may be modified, combined, or eliminated.

[0054] Method 100 begins at terminal block 101 with processor-executable instructions for a programmable controller or control module or similarly suitable processor, such as resident footwear controller 44 of FIG. 2, to call up an initialization procedure for a protocol to govern operation of a wearable electronic device, such as IES 10 of FIG. 1. This routine may be called-up and executed in real-time, continuously, systematically, sporadically, and/or at regular intervals, etc., during use of the intelligent electronic shoe 10. With reference to the IES data network and communications system 30 architecture of FIG. 3, as a representative implementation of the methodology set forth in FIG. 5, the initialization procedure at block 101 may be automatically commenced each time the user 11 approaches a roadway or roadway intersection 13, each time the user 11 approaches or is approached by a vehicle 32, or each time the user 11 is within detectable proximity to a moving transmitter-detector module 70 (e.g., mounted to the vehicle 32) or a stationary transmitter-detector module 72 (e.g., mounted to a crosswalk signal post 74). Utilizing a portable electronic device, such as smartphone 40 or smartwatch 42, the user 11 may launch a dedicated mobile application or a web-based applet that collaborates with a traffic system controller (e.g., represented by remote host system 34) through an IoAAF middleware node (e.g., represented by cloud computing system 36) to monitor the user 11, e.g., as part of a pedestrian collision avoidance procedure. The example illustrated in FIG. 3 portrays a singular pedestrian - a female runner - avoiding injury resulting from an accident with a singular automobile - an SAE Level 3, 4 or 5 autonomous vehicle - at the intersection of urban roadway. However, it is envisioned that the IES system 30 monitor and protect any number and type of user from any number and type of vehicle or object operating in any logically relevant environment. [0055] To enhance security, interaction between the IES 10 and IES system 30 can be enabled by an authentication process at predefined process block 103. Authentication may be performed by a primary or secondary source that confirms proper activation of a wearable electronic device and/or a valid identity of the device’s user. Upon manual entry of user identification information, such as a password, PIN number, credit card number, personal information, biometric data, predefined key sequences, etc., the user may be permitted to access a personal account, e.g., a “digital locker” operating on the user’s smartphone 40 with a NIKE+® Connect software application and registered with the IoAAF middleware node. Thus, data exchanges can be enabled by, for example, a combination of personal identification input (e.g., mother’s maiden name, social security number, etc.) with a secret PIN number (e.g., six or eight-digit code), or a combination of a password (e.g., created by the user 11) and a corresponding PIN number (e.g., issued by the host system 34), or a combination of a credit card input with secret PIN number. Additionally, or alternatively, a barcode, RFID tag, or NFC tag may be imprinted on or attached to the IES 10 shoe structure and configured to communicate a security authentication code to the IES system 30. Other established authentication and security techniques, including blockchain cryptographic technology, can be utilized to prevent unauthorized access to a user’s account, for example, to minimize an impact of unsanctioned access to a user’s account, or to prevent unauthorized access to personal information or funds accessible via a user’s account.

[0056] As an alternative or supplemental option to manually entering identification information at predefined process block 103, security authentication of the user 11 may be automated by the resident footwear controller 44. By way of non- limiting example, a pressure sensor 62, which may be in the nature of a binary contact- type sensor switch, may be attached to the footwear 10 (e.g., embedded within the midsole 24 of the sole structure 14). This pressure sensor 62 detects a calibrated minimum load on the insole 22 and thereby establishes the presence of a foot in the upper 12. Any future automated features of the IES 10 may first require the controller 44 confirm, via prompt signal to the binary pressure sensor 62, that a foot is present in the upper 12 and, thus, the footwear 10 is in use before transmitting a command signal to initiate an automated operation. While only a single sensor is illustrated in FIG. 2, it is envisioned that the IES 10 may be equipped with a distributed array of sensors, including pressure, temperature, moisture, and/or shoe dynamics sensors, packaged at discrete locations throughout the shoe structure. In the same vein, foot presence sensing (FPS) may be determined via a variety of available sensing technologies, including capacitance, magnetic, etc. Additional information regarding foot presence sensing can be found, for example, in U.S. Patent Application Publication Nos. 2017/0265584 A1 and 2017/0265594 Al, to Steven H. Walker, et ah, both of which are incorporated herein by reference in their respective entireties and for all purposes. [0057] In addition to functioning as a binary (ON/OFF) switch, the pressure sensor 62 may take on a multi-modal sensor configuration, such as a polyurethane dielectric capacitive biofeedback sensor, that detects any of assorted biometric parameters, such as the magnitude of an applied pressure generated by a foot in the upper 12, and outputs one or more signals indicative thereof. These sensor signals may be passed from the pressure sensor 62 to the resident footwear controller 44, which then aggregates, filters and processes the received data to calculate a weight value for a current user. The calculated current user weight for the individual presently using the IES 10 is compared to a previously validated, memory-stored user weight (e.g., authenticated to a registered user of an existing personal account). In so doing, the footwear controller 44 can determine if the current user weight is equal to or within a predetermined threshold range of the validated user weight. Once the current user is authenticated to the validated user, the resident footwear controller 44 is enabled to transmit command signals to one or more subsystems within the footwear 10 to automate a feature thereof.

[0058] Automated security authentication of a user may be achieved through other available techniques, as part of predefined process block 103, including cross- referencing characteristics of a current user’s foot with previously validated characteristics of an authenticated user’s foot. For instance, the representative IES 10 of FIG. 2 is assembled with a motorized lacing system utilizing a lace motor (M) 64 that is mounted to the footwear 10 and is selectively actuable to transition the shoelace 20 back-and-forth between an untensioned (loosened) state and one or more tensioned (tightened) states. Lace motor 64 may be in the nature of a two-way DC electric worm-gear motor that is housed inside the sole structure 14 and controlled by the resident footwear controller 44. Activation of the lace motor 64 may be initiated via a manually activated switch built into the shoe structure or softkey activation through an app on the user’s smartphone 40 or smartwatch 42. Control commands may include, but are certainly not limited to, incremental tighten, incremental loosen, open/fully loosen, store “preferred” tension, and recall/restore tension. Additional information pertaining to motorized shoelace tensioning systems can be found, for example, in U.S. Patent No. 9,365,387 B2, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety and for all purposes.

[0059] Motor control of lace motor 64 may be automated via the resident footwear controller 44, for example, in response to a sensor signal from pressure sensor 62 indicating that a foot has been placed inside the upper 12. Shoelace tension may be actively modulated through governed operation of the lace motor 64 by the controller 44 during use of the IES 10, e.g., to better retain the foot in response to dynamic user movement. In at least some embodiments, an H-bridge mechanism is employed to measure motor current; measured current is provided as an input to footwear controller 44. Resident footwear memory 46 stores a lookup table with a list of calibrated currents each of which is known to correspond to a certain lace tension position. By checking a measured motor current against a calibrated current logged in the lookup table, the footwear controller 44 may ascertain the current tension position of the shoelace 20. The foregoing functions, as well as any other logically relevant option or feature disclosed herein, may be applied to alternative types of wearable apparel, including clothing, headgear, eyewear, wrist wear, neck wear, leg wear, undergarments, and the like. Moreover, the lace motor 64 may be adapted to automate the tensioning and loosening of straps, latches, cables and other commercially available mechanisms for fastening shoes.

[0060] Similar to the pressure sensor 62 discussed above, the lace motor 64 may double as a binary (ON/OFF) switch that effectively enables and disables automated features of the IES 10. That is, the resident footwear controller 44, prior to executing an automated feature, may communicate with the lace motor 64 to determine whether the shoelace 20 is in a tensioned or untensioned state. If the latter, all automated features may be disabled by the resident footwear controller 44 to prevent the inadvertent initiation of an automated feature while the IES 10 is not in use, for example. Conversely, upon determination that the lace motor 64 placed the lace 20 in a tensioned state, the footwear controller 44 is permitted to transmit automation command signals.

[0061] During operation of the lace motor 64, the shoelace 20 may be placed in any one of multiple discrete, tensioned positions to accommodate feet with differing girths or users with different tension preferences. A lace sensor, which may be built into the motor 64 or packaged in the sole structure 14 or upper 12, may be employed to detect a current tensioned position of the lace 20 for a given user. Alternatively, real-time tracking of a position of an output shaft (e.g., a worm gear) of the two-way electric lace motor 64 or a position of a designated section of the lace 20 (e.g., a lace spool mated with the motor’s worm gear) may be used to determine lace position. Upon tensioning of the lace 20, the resident footwear controller 44 communicates with the lace motor 64 and/or lace sensor to identify a current tensioned position of the lace 20 for a current user. This current tensioned position may then be compared to a previously validated, memory-stored lace tensioned position (e.g., authenticated to a registered user of an existing personal account). Through this comparison, the footwear controller 44 can determine if the current tensioned position is equal to or within a predetermined threshold range of the validated tensioned position. After authenticating the current user to the validated user, command signals may be transmitted via the resident footwear controller 44 to one or more subsystems within the footwear 10 to automate a feature thereof. If the current user cannot be authenticated or validated, the footwear controller 44 may be disabled such that IES is rendered inoperable.

[0062] Upon completion of the authentication procedure set forth in predefined process block 103, the method 100 of FIG. 5 proceeds to input/output block 105 with processor-executable instructions to retrieve sufficient data to track the motion of one or more target objects moving in a designated environment monitored by the IES system 30. In accord with the illustrated example of FIG. 3, the IES 10, remote host system 34, and/or cloud computing system 36 may receive, either directly or through cooperative operation with the smartphone 40 or smartwatch 42, location data that is indicative of a current location and velocity (speed and direction) of the user 11 and a current location and velocity (speed and direction) of the motor vehicle 32. User movement can also, or alternatively, be tracked through a dedicated mobile app or a route planning app running on the user’s smartphone 40. Location and movement of the IES 10 and, thus, the user 11 can also be determined, for example, through a satellite-based GPS navigation system transceiver built into the upper 12 or sole structure 14. In addition to tracking real-time user dynamics, a back-office intermediary server, such as cloud computing system 36 acting as a middleware node, tracks the real-time location and movement of the vehicle 32, e.g., either through an on-board transmission device or through an app on the driver’s personal computing device.

[0063] Another technique for ascertaining a user’s location and attendant dynamics employs a detection tag 78 that is borne by the user 11 and communicates with a transmitter-detector module 70, 72 that is mounted to a nearby structure or on a nearby moving object. In accord with the representative application presented in FIGS. 1 and 3, the detection tag 78 is embodied as a passive or active radio frequency (RF) transponder that is mounted to an exterior surface of the sole structure 14. The RF transponder 78 of FIG. 1 includes an omnidirectional (Type I) RF antenna coil 80 that is fabricated with an electrically conductive material and is shaped to receive and transmit signals in the form of electromagnetic radiation waves. An RF frequency filter 82, which may be in the nature of a lumped-element Butterworth filter, is electrically connected to the RF antenna 80 and designed for bandpass operability to allow the passing of only those signals that have an RF power with a calibrated (first) frequency or are within a calibrated (first) frequency range. As another option, the frequency filter 82 may provide band-stop functionality that attenuates and denies the passing of all signals that have an RF power with an undesired frequency or a frequency within any one or more undesired frequency bands, namely outside the calibrated (first) frequency range. An optional dielectric cover 84 is placed over the antenna 80, filter 82 and attendant detection tag electronics to protect the componentry and increase performance as an RF transponder. Signal exchanges may be routed through a system packet interface (SPI) interface and general-purpose input/outputs (GPIOs). Frequency and phase-tunable signal output may be provided through a phase lock loop (PLL) or direct digital synthesis (DDS) synthesizer, harmonic mixer, and PLL or DDS synthesizer-based local oscillator.

[0064] As the user 11 approaches the roadway intersection 13 of FIG. 3, the detection tag 78 (FIG. 1) receives a frequency swept prompt signal Sp or “ping” emitted at regular intervals by a moving transmitter-detector module 70, which may be packaged proximate the front end of the vehicle 32, or a stationary transmitter- detector module 72, which may be hung on a crosswalk signal post 74, a building wall, or similarly suitable immobile structure. For applications in which the detection tag 78 is composed of a passive RF transponder, the transmitter-detector module 70, 72 may broadcast the prompt signal Sp in a repeating or substantially continuous manner. Conversely, for active RF transponder implementations, the incoming prompt signal Sp may be emitted in answer to a callback signal broadcast by the detection tag 78 in a repeating or substantially continuous manner. The prompt signal Sp is an electromagnetic field wave that has a predetermined (first) RF power level with a standardized (first) downlink frequency. In addition, the prompt signal Sp contains an embedded data set with encoded, unique information (e.g., transmitter ID, interrogation code, timestamp, etc.). Data can be superimposed over the swept carrier wave in a narrowband system to help reduce bandwidth overhead that some implementations may create. It is to be noted that a reverse situation is also possible, where the tag 78 broadcasts and the module 70 accepts and retransmits prompt signal Sp.

[0065] Upon receipt of this prompt signal Sp, the detection tag 78 responsively processes and retransmits the prompt signal Sp back to the transmitter-detector module 70, 72 as an outgoing response signal SR. The response signal SR is an electromagnetic field wave that has a distinguishable (second) RF power with a complementary (second) uplink frequency that is distinct from the first frequency. The detection tag 78 may be equipped with an RF frequency converter to modulate the incoming prompt signal Sp (e.g., by frequency multiplication of the incoming signal), and an RF signal amplifier that intensifies the response signal SR, based on the incoming prompt signal Sp, prior to transmission of the response signal SR to the transmitter-detector module 70, 72. To help ensure that the transmitter-detector module 70, 72 recognizes the detection tag 78, the response signal SR parrots at least a portion of the prompt signal’s Sp embedded data back to the transmitter-detector module 70, 72. In order to minimize onboard power usage, the detection tag 78 may operate in two modes: an idle mode and an active mode. When idling, the detection tag 78 is generally dormant and, thus, does not draw power from the resident power supply 52 or an off-board power source. By comparison, when active, the detection tag 78 temporarily extracts power from the resident power supply 52 or is powered by the incoming prompt signal Sp. As such, the detection tag 78 does not transmit a transparent output signal unless and until an incoming signal with RF power of a predetermined frequency is received. [0066] The intelligent electronic shoe 10 of FIGS. 1-3 may employ alternative means for exchanging data with the IES system 30 and motor vehicle 32 as part of executing the pedestrian collision threat assessment. Rather than using an RF transponder, the detection tag 78 may be fabricated with one or more electroactive polymer (EAP) sensors, each of which has a discrete dielectric EAP element mounted to the sole structure 14 or upper 12. In accord with this example, the incoming prompt signal Sp is an electrical field that generates a current with sufficient voltage to induce a physical state change (e.g., an arcing or expansion) of the implanted dielectric EAP element. Through normal use of the IES 10, the user 11 will unknowingly reverse the physical state change of the EAP sensor, e.g., by flattening or compressing the dielectric EAP element with their foot. In so doing, the EAP sensor will generate an electric current that causes a response signal SR to be output by the IES 10. It is also envisioned that the IES 10 may be enabled to communicate directly with the vehicle 32, e.g., through a device-to-device wireless ad hoc network (WANET), rather than redirecting all data through the IES system 30 or other preexisting wireless access point(s).

[0067] With reference again to FIG. 5, the method 100 continues to process block 107 with processor-executable instructions for transmitting or receiving a preliminary pedestrian collision warning signal that is generated responsive to transmission of a response signal SR that indicates a user is approaching and may enter a roadway in a manner that may cause a motor vehicle accident. For rudimentary applications, a pedestrian collision warning signal may be automatically broadcast via the IES system 30 each time a user 11 is approaching an intersection 13 at the same time as a motor vehicle 32, irrespective of secondary variables. As seen, for example, in FIG. 4, a wireless transmitter node 86 of the IES system 30 may broadcast a preliminary warning signal to a first user 11A wearing IES 10 who is approaching and predicted to cross a roadway intersection 13A at the same time that a moving vehicle 32A is expected to traverse through the intersection 13 A. Even though visually obstructed from each other by a building, a second user 1 IB wearing IES 10 and approaching the intersection 13 A may also receive a preliminary warning signal to notify the user 11B in an overabundance of caution of the oncoming vehicle 32A. A pair of IES 10 may be registered to a visually, physically or mentally impaired user 11C; due to the increased likelihood that this individual may unknowingly wander into the intersection 13 A as the vehicle 32A is passing through, a preliminary pedestrian collision warning signal may be sent to the third user 11C. Warning signals may be sent to multiple users 11A, 11B, 11C and any potentially threatening vehicle(s) 32A such that each party can take remediating action to prevent an inadvertent collision between a pedestrian and an automobile.

[0068] For more sophisticated multimodal applications, the IES system 30 receives data from an assortment of sensing devices that use, for example, photo detection, radar, laser, ultrasonic, optical, infrared, damped mass, smart material, or other suitable technology for object detection and tracking. In accord with the illustrated example, the IES system 30 may be equipped with, or may receive sensor signals from, one or more digital cameras, one or more range sensors, one or more speed sensors, one or more dynamics sensors, and any requisite filtering, classification, fusion and analysis hardware and software for processing raw sensor data. Each sensor generates electrical signals indicative of a characteristic or condition of a targeted object, generally as an estimate with a corresponding standard deviation. While the operating characteristics of these sensors are generally complementary, some are more reliable in estimating certain parameters than others. Most sensors have different operating ranges and areas of coverage, and some are capable of detecting different parameters within their operating range. Further, the performance of many sensor technologies may be affected by differing environmental conditions. Consequently, sensors generally present parametric variances whose operative overlap offer opportunities for sensory fusion.

[0069] A dedicated control module or suitably programmed processor will aggregate and pre-process a collection of sensor-based data, fuse the aggregated data, analyze the fused data in conjunction with related crowd-sourced data and behavioral data for each target object under evaluation, and estimate whether or not it is statistically probable that a target object will enter a predicted path of a motor vehicle. At input/output block 109, for example, the resident footwear controller 44 collects and transmits to the IES system 30: (1) position data with one or more parameters indicative of real-time position of the IES 10 and, thus, the user 11 (e.g., lat, Ion., elevation, geospatial data, etc.), (2) dynamics data with one or more parameters indicative of real-time motion of the IES 10 and, thus, the user 11 (e.g., relative or absolute speed, acceleration/deceleration, trajectory, etc.) and (3) behavioral data indicative of historical behavior of the user 11 while wearing IES 10. Such historical data may include past tendencies of a given user when at a particular intersection or in a particular geographic location, past tendencies of a given user in urban or rural environments generally, past tendencies of a given user in various weather conditions, past tendencies of a given user in specific dynamic scenarios, etc. It is envisioned that the IES controller 44 may collect and transmit other types of data, including predictive path data indicative of an estimated path for the user 11 based on available current and historical information. Any such data may be collected and stored locally on the IES 10, via the IES system 30, via the vehicle 32, via neighboring devices and systems, or any combination of thereof.

[0070] At predefined process block 111, the method 100 of FIG. 5 proceeds with processor-executable instructions for a resident or remote controller to apply a sensor fusion module to aggregated raw sensor data to thereby determine movement of a target object in a monitored environment, such as a likelihood of intrusion of a pedestrian with respect to the location and predicted route of a vehicle. IES system 30, for example, conditions the data received from the resident footwear controller 44 in order to interrelate received sensor data to ensure overlap with a single, common “reference” timeframe, coordinate system, set of standard measurements, etc. Once the received sensor data is sufficiently conditioned to ensure alignment across related metrics, IES system 30 may execute a data association protocol that will classify each respective portion of sensor data, and then correlate related portions or sensor data based on any complementary classifications. IES system 30 may then execute a sensor fusion procedure of the conditioned and classified data along with path plan data of the target object and subject vehicle. Sensor fusion may be typified as a computational framework for the aggregation, analysis and alliance of data that originates from heterogeneous or homogeneous sources (e.g., the multiple distinct sensor types discussed above). For the illustrated application, sensor fusion may be embodied as a dedicated software appliance that intelligently combines data from several sensors and corrects for the deficiencies of the individual sensors to calculate more complete, accurate and intelligible information.

[0071] Upon completion of sensor fusion, the IES system 30 calculates a pedestrian collision threat value. This collision threat value is prognosticative of a monitored target object behaving in a manner that will more likely than not cause a detrimental event. In accord with the illustrated example, a pedestrian collision threat value may be predictive of intrusion of the user 11 in a manner that will at least partially obstruct a predicted route of the subject vehicle 32 as it relates to a current (real-time) location of the subject vehicle. This pedestrian collision threat value may be based on fusion of user position data, user dynamics data, and user behavioral data. Optionally, a pedestrian collision threat value may also incorporate fusion of the behavioral, user position, and user dynamics data with crowd-sourced data and environmental data. Environmental data may be composed of information that is indicative of a surrounding environment of the user, such as current weather conditions, current vehicle traffic conditions, current pedestrian traffic conditions, and the like. By comparison, crowd-sourced data may be composed of information that is indicative of location, movement and/or behavior of multiple individuals in proximity to the user. The remote computing node receiving the foregoing data may include the remote host system 34, the cloud computing system 36, the resident footwear controller 44, a resident vehicle controller 76 of the motor vehicle 32, or a distributed computing combination thereof. Alternatively, the footwear controller 44 may transmit any or all of the foregoing data through a wireless communications device 48, 50 to a central control unit of an intelligent transportation management system. [0072] Method 100 of FIG. 5 proceeds to decision block 113 to determine if: (1) the pedestrian collision threat value PCTi generated at process block 111 is greater than a calibrated threshold value CVT and (2) a current (first) operating state OSi of a proximal traffic control signal is equal to any of one or more conflicting signal phases SPc. As per the first inquiry, the calibrated threshold value CVT may be determined through empirical testing that provides sufficient quantitative data to establish a statistically significant minimum confidence percentage (e.g., 80%) below which a calculated collision threat value is either inconclusive or probabilistically concludes a collision event will not occur. Available techniques for identifying the calibrated threshold value CVT may include stochastic Gaussian processes, Finite Mixture Model (FMM) estimation protocols, or other normal or continuous probability distribution techniques.

[0073] For the latter of the two inquires conducted at decision block 113, the conflicting signal phases SPc includes any signal phase in which traffic is afforded right-of-way in a manner that does not allow for safe crossing at a given road segment. Traffic signal phasing may be implemented using signal indications, signal heads, and attendant control logic in a traffic system controller that governs and coordinates timing, sequence and duration. Signal phasing settings may be changed as needed, e.g., to accommodate changes in traffic demand, pattern, etc., and in a manner that yields safe and efficient operation for prevailing conditions.

[0074] With reference again to FIG. 3, for example, the user 11 is shown running at a speed and trajectory that is estimated to place them within the roadway of the intersection 13 at approximately the same time that the vehicle 32 is expected to pass through the same intersection 13. Upon detection of the user 11 via IES system 30 using a transmitter-detector module 70, 72, a backend server computer of remote host system 34 will identify a traffic signal or set of traffic signals (e.g., tricolored traffic control light 88 and pedestrian crosswalk signal 90 of FIG. 4) that is/are positioned at a road segment (e.g., intersection 13 A) proximate the user’s location and operable to regulate traffic flow (e.g., eastbound automobile travel and northbound pedestrian travel). Once identified, the remote host system 34 determines the traffic signal’s real-time operating state, which may include a proceed state (continuous green light or WALK signal), a caution/yield state (continuous amber light or blinking WALK signal), a do not proceed or stop state (continuous red light or DON’T WALK signal), or transitionary states between any of the foregoing states (green to amber, amber to red, etc.). One or more of these operating states may be characterized as a conflicting signal phase SPc. By way of non-limiting example, the proceed state, caution/yield state, and proceed-to-caution transitionary state may all be designated as a conflicting signal phase SPc.

[0075] If either of the assessments conducted at decision block 113 comes back as negative (block 113 = NO), the method 100 may circle back to terminal block 101 and run in a continuous loop; alternatively, method 100 may proceed to terminal block 117 and temporarily terminate. Conversely, upon determining that the pedestrian collision threat value PCTi is in fact greater than the calibrated threshold value CVT and the current operating state OSi of the traffic control signal corresponds to one of the conflicting signal phases SPc (block 113 = YES), the method 100 proceeds to process block 115 whereat one or more remediating actions are taken to avoid a collision between a user and a vehicle. By way of example, and not limitation, wireless transmitter node 86 may transmit a pedestrian collision imminent notification to the vehicle controller 76; vehicle controller 76 may immediately respond by issuing a braking command signal or signals to the vehicle brake system to execute a braking maneuver, e.g., to come to a full stop or to reduce speed to a calculated value that will readily allow an evasive steering maneuver. In addition, or alternatively, the vehicle 32 may perform other autonomous vehicle functions, such as controlling vehicle steering, governing operation of the vehicle’s transmission, controlling engine throttle, and other automated driving functions. Visible and/or audible warnings may be transmitted to the driver using a vehicle center console infotainment system, a digital instrument cluster display or a personal portable electronic device.

[0076] Process block 115 may also include processor-executable instructions for automating pedestrian and vehicle traffic flow changes through traffic signal phase modulation. For instance, a traffic system controller (represented in FIG. 4 by a traffic signal control cabinet 92) transmits a command signal to a vehicle traffic control light 88 to switch from the first operating state (e.g., a green light) to a second operating state (e.g., an amber or red light) in an attempt to stop the motor vehicle 32 prior to entering the intersection 13 and thereby prevent a collision with the user 11. As indicated above, traffic signal phase modification may be based on user dynamics data (e.g., speed and heading) suggesting the user 11 will enter the monitored roadway segment 13 concomitant with vehicle dynamics data (e.g., velocity and predicted path) suggesting the vehicle 32 will enter the same monitored roadway segment 13. In this regard, the IES system 30 may receive and analyze IES dynamics sensor data to identify an expected incursion time that the IES 10 and, thus, the user 11 is estimated to breach the traffic lane regulated by the vehicle traffic control light 88

[0077] IES system 30 may also determine an estimated phase change time, calculated as the difference between the current (real) time and a preprogrammed phase change time at which the traffic signal is scheduled to switch from its current operating state to an alternate operating state. Responsive to determination that the expected incursion time is less than the estimated phase change time - the user 11 is expected to enter the intersection 13 before the vehicle traffic control light 88 is preprogrammed to change from green to red - the traffic signal control cabinet 92 automatically transmits the phase-change command signal to the traffic control light 88. Alternatively, if the expected incursion time does not place the user 11 within the intersection 13 before a signal phase change, there is no need for the traffic signal control cabinet 92 to intercede and preemptively emit a phase-change command signal. The same can be said for instances in which user dynamics data indicates the user 11 has stopped or will stop before entering the intersection 13, or indicates the user 11 has taken on a complementary or alternate heading that will not place them in the intersection 13. Once again, there is no need for the traffic signal control cabinet 92 to intercede and preemptively emit a phase-change command signal. Upon completion of the remediating actions executed at process block 115, the method 100 proceeds to terminal block 117 and temporarily terminates.

[0078] In addition to facilitating automation of one or more vehicle operations designed to mitigate or prevent a vehicle-pedestrian collision, method 100 may concomitantly facilitate automation of one or more IES features designed to mitigate or prevent a vehicle-pedestrian collision at process block 115. For instance, a first command signal may be transmitted to a first IES subsystem to execute a first automated feature AFi of an intelligent electronic shoe. According to the illustrated example of FIG. 3, resident footwear controller 44 receives the pedestrian collision threat value output at block 111, establishes that the threat value is greater than the threshold value at block 113, and responsively takes preventative action at block 115. Resident footwear controller 44 automatically responds to this determination (i.e., without any user input or external system prompt) by transmitting a command signal to resident lighting system 56 to activate the lighting device 58 to thereby generate a predetermined light output. The selected color and/or pattern is detectable by the user 11 and, optionally, the driver of vehicle 32, and is prominent enough to warn of the imminent collision. By way of non-limiting example, resident lighting system 56 may output a flashing, bright-red light pattern; use of this particular color and pattern may be restricted to warning the user of potential dangers. Light output of the IES 10 may be coordinated with light output of the forward-facing headlamps of the motor vehicle 32 to further facilitate notifying the user 11 of a predicted vehicle collision.

[0079] It is envisioned that any of the disclosed connected wearable electronic devices may automate additional or alternative features as part of the methodology 100 set forth in FIG. 5. Responding to a positive determination at decision block 113, footwear controller 44 may automatically transmit a second command signal to a second subsystem to execute a second automated feature AF2 of the wearable electronic device. As anon-limiting example, the IES 10 of FIG. 2 is shown equipped with a haptic transducer 66 that is housed inside the sole structure 14 in operative communication to the insole 22. To alert the user 11 of the pedestrian collision threat assessment, the resident footwear controller 44 emits a command signal to the haptic transducer 66 to generate a haptic cue (e.g., a perceptible vibration force or a series of vibration pulses) that is transmitted from the midsole 24, through the insole 22, and to the user’s foot. The intensity and/or pulse pattern output by the haptic transducer 66 as part of method 100 may be limited to instances of warning the user of a probable hazard.

[0080] An optional third automated feature AF3 may include operating the lace motor 64 as a tactile force-feedback device that is selectively activated by the footwear controller 44 to rapidly tension and release the shoelace 20. Likewise, the IES 10 may operate in conjunction with the smartphone 40 (e.g., coordinated flashing of an LED camera light or an eccentric rotating mass (ERM) actuator) or an active apparel element (e.g., coordinated activation of a thermal or haptic device built into a shirt or shorts). As yet another option, haptic feedback can be utilized to provide tum-by-tum direchons to the user (e.g., left foot or right foot vibrates at a heightened intensity and/or with a designated pulse pattern to indicate a left turn or right turn). In the same vein, haptic feedback can be employed in a similar fashion to direct a user along a pre selected route or to warn a user against taking a particular route (e.g., deemed unsafe). Additional information regarding footwear and apparel with haptic feedback can be found, for example, in U.S. Patent Application Publication No. 2017/0154505 Al, to Ernest Kim, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety and for all purposes.

[0081] Optionally, the IES 10 may be provided with an audio system, which is represented in FIG. 1 by a miniaturized audio speaker 68 that is attached to the rear quarter 12C of the upper 12. Resident footwear controller 44, upon confirming that the pedestrian collision threat value is greater than the calibrated threshold value, automatically transmits a command signal to the audio system speaker 68 to generate a predetermined sound output. For instance, the audio system speaker 68 may blare “WARNING!” or “STOP!” at an increased sound level. As another option, footwear controller 44 may command the lace motor 64 to repeatedly tighten/loosen the shoelace 20 as a signal/cue, e.g., of an oncoming automobile. Footwear-to- infrastructure communications may be enabled (and coordinated) to allow the IES 10 to communicate with a networked “smart city” controller that, in turn, can modulate street lighting or traffic light changes to improve safety for a walker or runner. Conversely, the “smart city” controller may communicate with the IES 10 to warn the user they are coming up to a pedestrian crossing with a “Do Not Walk” sign signaling that pedestrians must yield the right of way to oncoming vehicles. [0082] Light features built into the shoe may also be used during an athletic event (e.g., coordinated to match the colors of a user’s favorite athletic team) or while exercising (e.g., to light roadway while running at night). Security features may also be installed to render the IES unusable to a non-authenticated party. For instance, the lace motor 64 may be rendered inoperable by the footwear controller 44 upon determining that the person wearing the IES 10 is an unauthorized user. In tandem, the controller 44 may transmit an electronic alert to the user’s smartphone 40 or smartwatch 42 notifying them of the potential theft or misuse of the IES 10.

[0083] Optional configurations may provide intelligent electronic footwear or apparel that is adapted for instructional purposes. As an example, a user or instructor can wear the IES 10 when helping to teach a person how to drive an automobile. For instance, the IES 10 may be configured such that an instructor can press their feet, through the shoe, hard to a passenger compartment floor panel to simulate depressing a brake pedal. A built-in pressure sensor 62 detects the instructor’s foot gesture, outputs a corresponding signal to the footwear controller 44, and the IES 10 communicates with the vehicle 32 brake control module (BCM) to activate the vehicle brakes. In addition, or alternatively, the IES 10 may communicate with a pair of intelligent electronic shoes worn by the student, transmitting instructions to provide sensory feedback to the student that they should be using their foot to physically depress the brake pedal and thereby apply the vehicle’s brake system. In addition to teaching a student how to drive, haptic, auditory and/or visual feedback from the IES 10 may be employed to teach a wearer of the footwear a series of steps in a dance routine, proper transfer of body weight when swinging a golf club or baseball bat, proper timing, gait, and step count for executing hurdles, etc.

[0084] The remote computing node may take on alternative forms from those described above, such as a central server computer or a parallel HMI of a residential or commercial security system. When the user 11 of the IES 10 enters a predetermined location (e.g., an entry way, a hallway, a room, etc.) or is within a pre selected proximity of the facility being monitored (e.g., delineated by an active geofence), the resident footwear controller 44 of FIG. 2 may transmit a deactivation command signal to the security system server computer or HMI such that the user 11 may enter the facility without having to manually deactivate the security system. In FIG. 6, for example, a representative user 213 is shown approaching the front entrance of a building 232 that is secured by a commercial security system (represented by a non-contact, video-monitored entry panel 234). One or both of the IES 10 worn by the user 213 emits an invisible geofence 215 that encircles the user 213. Once the user 213 is sufficiently close to the building 232 for the video- monitored entry panel 234 to breach or otherwise penetrate the IES-generated geofence 215, the IES 10 automatically transmits a security authentication signal to the security system entry panel 234. In so doing, the user 213 is granted access to the building 232, e.g., as portrayed in FIG. 6 by the automated opening of the security door at the entrance of the building 232. Alternative system configurations may use other communication means, including any of those described above and below, to facilitate interaction between the IES 10 and security system 234.

[0085] As yet a further example, the remote computing node may be in the nature of a home automation system (or “smart home”) that controls the climate, lighting, blinds, appliances, etc., of a user’s home. When a user of the IES 10 enters or exits a predetermined location (e.g., a front door, a garage, a hallway, a room, etc.), or enters or exits a pre-selected proximity of the residence being regulated by the home automation system, the resident footwear controller 44 may transmit one or more command signals to the home automation system to lock or unlock a door, activate or deactivate a room light, increase or decrease a temperature of a thermostat, or a combination of the foregoing features. In FIG. 7, for example, a representative user 313 is shown walking around a home 332 with various appliances and devices and subsystems that are controlled, in whole or in part, by a residential home automation system (represented by a WiFi-enabled touchscreen gateway panel 334). Responsive to the user 313 moving from a first room to a second room (e.g., walking from the living room into the bedroom), the IES 10 may automatically transmit a series of command signals to: (1) illuminate the lights in the second room; (2) darken the lights in the first room; (3) switch off one or more devices (e.g., television) in the first room; and (4) modulate the temperature in the second room.

[0086] IES 10 of FIG. 2 may be considered particularly useful for interacting with a fully assisted or a fully autonomous motor vehicle, such as those classified as Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Levels 3, 4 or 5 vehicles. In addition to enabling controller-authenticated and automated locking, unlocking, and motor start of a vehicle, the IES 10 may communicate with a route planning module (RPM) and, in turn, a powertrain control module (PCM), brake system control module (BCM), etc., to automatically coordinate transporting the user 11 of the IES 10 to a predetermined location. In a specific example, motor vehicle 32 of FIG. 3 may propagate a unique geofence signal in order to pair with multiple users wearing compatible IES. If user 11 is within the boundary of the vehicle’s geofence, the IES 10 responds by automatically generating a first visual, audible and/or haptic output to notify the user 11 they have breached the geofence. The user 11 may then initiate a dedicated mobile app operating on their smartphone 40 to identify a current real-time location of the motor vehicle 32, which may be displayed on a GPS or navigation map application. When the user 11 is within close proximity of the motor vehicle 32 (e.g., ten (10) meters or less), the IES 10 may generate a second visual, audible and/or haptic output to notify the user 11 they are within a predetermined proximity to the vehicle 32 and, thus, should be able to visually identify the vehicle 32.

[0087] Once the user 11 locates the motor vehicle 32, a two-way authentication process will take place between the resident footwear controller 44 of the IES 10 and a central electronic control unit (ECU) of the motor vehicle 32 or a server computer of a backend of middleware node facilitating the F2V operation. Once verified, the motor vehicle 32 will signal to the user 11 that they have the option to enter the vehicle’s passenger compartment. A validation key may concomitantly issue to the user 11 via the IoAAF system; user 11 can retrieve the key via the aforementioned smartphone app. If the user 11 elects to enter the motor vehicle 32, the user 11 may be taken to a specified or unspecified location (an “Unlock Location”) where a reserved product is waiting for the user 11. Once the user 11 arrives at the Unlock Location, the user 11 may be required to input the validation key to access to the reserved product.

[0088] Illustrated in FIG. 8 is a representative electronic navigation assistance system 400 with an intelligent electronic shoe (or “footwear”) 410 that communicates with a wireless-enabled, handheld computing device (or “smartphone”) 440 to provision navigation assistance to a user of the IES 410. While differing in appearance, it is envisioned that the features and options disclosed above with reference to the IES 10 of FIGS. 1 and 2 may be incorporated, singly or in any combination, into the example IES 410 of FIG. 8, and vice versa. As a point of similarity, the IES 410 is portrayed as an athletic shoe composed of a foot-receiving upper 412 mounted on top of a subjacent sole structure 414, each of which may take on any of the options and alternatives described above in regard to their respective upper 12 and sole structure 14 counterparts. Like the footwear 10 of FIGS. 1 and 2, the IES 410 of FIG. 8 may be divided into multiple adjoining anatomical regions (e.g., forefoot, midfoot, and hindfoot regions) and vertically bifurcated into mediolateral sections (e.g., lateral and medial segments). Another point of similarity may be drawn from the closed toe and heel construction of the footwear 410, as well as the shoelace 420 for securely retaining a foot within the upper 412, and a tongue 418 that extends between the lace 420 and the interior void of the upper 412.

[0089] As another overlapping point of similarity, the IES 410 of FIG. 8 is shown equipped with a controller-automated tensioning system 460 for selectively adjusting the size of an ankle opening (or “throat”) 415 in the rear quarter portion of the upper 412 to thereby tighten and loosen the upper 412 around a user’s foot. In accord with the illustrated example, a diameter of the opening 415 is decreased and increased by a lace motor 462 applying tension to and releasing tension from the shoelace 420, respectively. The lace motor 462 is stowed inside a protective outer motor housing 464, which is securely mounted onto an exterior surface of the upper’s 412 rear quarter portion. Shoelace 420 is shown threaded through longitudinally elongated lacing guides 416, then passing through an internal channel in the upper 412, and extending into the motor housing 464 of the lace motor 462. As indicated above, the shoelace 420 may be replaced with a strap, cable, latch, pneumatic or hydraulic bladder, or any other mechanism apt for modulating the size of the opening 415 and girth of the upper 412.

[0090] Automated tensioning system 460 applies tension to shoelace 420, e.g., in response to various user inputs and/or system control commands, in order to tighten and loosen the upper 412. By way of non-limiting example, lace motor 462 of FIG. 8 winds the lace 420 onto and, conversely, unwinds the shoelace 420 from a lace spool 466 internal to the motor housing 464. The lace motor 462 may be embodied as a bidirectional direct current (DC) electric stepper motor that is powered by a rechargeable energy storage system (RESS) 470, such as a lithium-ion battery module packaged inside the IES sole structure 414. Activation of the lace motor 462 applies torque to the lace spool 466 via rotation of an interconnecting motor shaft 468. Rotation of the spool 466 in a first (e.g., clockwise) direction functions to coil and, thus, apply tension to the shoelace 420, whereas rotation of the spool 466 in a second (e.g., counterclockwise) direction functions to uncoil and, thus, release tension from the shoelace 420. Alternative architectures may employ different motor, transmission, and/or lace-winding devices. [0091] While it is envisioned that the IES 410 may be fabricated with a resident HMI, such as a control button set or touchscreen interface, for governing operation of the automated tensioning system 460, IES 410 may wirelessly communicate with the handheld computing device 440 for selective operation of the lace motor 462. For instance, the smartphone 440 may download and run a dedicated “lacing control” software application (app) 472. A high-definition OLED touchscreen display device 474 of the smartphone 440 may be used to display information to, and to receive control inputs from, a user. The dedicated mobile app 472 provides a graphical user interface for presenting soft control buttons, radio buttons, menus, track pads, etc., to initiate control commands in response to control inputs made by the user. Example control commands may include, but are not limited to: left shoe selection, right shoe selection, incremental tighten of a selected shoe or both shoes, incremental loosen of a selected shoe or both shoes, fully open/loosen both shoes, store a current tension, recall a memory-stored tension, etc.

[0092] FIGS. 9 A through 9D illustrate the smartphone 440 communicating with the IES 410 to execute a user-navigation assistance protocol to aid users with locating target objects and/or target locations. In FIG. 9A, for example, a search session is initiated for locating a target virtual object, such as a cryptographic digital asset 480 associated with a purchased pair of athletic shoes, that is “hidden” at a virtual location within a designated geographic region, such as a metropolitan city (e.g., Manhattan, NY). Touchscreen display device 474 presents the user with an introduction screen and an option to participate in the search. Alternatively, the user may be prompted to “hunt” for a target virtual object in a brick-and-mortar store by using a photographic “snap” or augmented reality function on their handheld personal computing device. In this instance, a KickID associated with the purchased pair of shoes may be provided to the user as part of a retail transaction. However, the user may then be asked to separately find an associated CRYPTOKICK™ hidden within the store or designated area before the digital asset can be transferred to their personal locker (i.e., the cryptographic key and the virtual object must both be separately acquired before the transfer occurs). Obtaining the cryptographic key may enable an AR engine associated with a user device to initiate a game in which the CRYPTOKICK™ associated with that key is locally hidden and available for the user to locate. Commencement of the search may be relayed to the user via a first tactile cue, such as a prolonged activation of lace motors 462 in both of the user’s shoes, that is output through a resident navigation alert system, e.g., via select use of automated tensioning system 460. An advantage to using automated tensioning system 460 over a conventional haptic transducer is the multimodal application of user-perceptible tactile sensations: vibration of the lace motor 462 and tensioning/releasing of the shoelace 420.

[0093] Upon initiation of the search for the target virtual object/location, the display device 474 of the smartphone 440 may display a real-time GPS location for the IES 410 and, thus, the user. FIG. 9B, for example, portrays smartphone 440 running a dedicated “shoe hunt” mobile app 473 with a graphical depiction of a user avatar 481. Display device 474 may depict movement of the IES 410 and user through concurrent movement of the user’s avatar on a street-level map 482 of the city and locations of other users, landmarks, and natural makers proximate the IES 410. To assist the user with locating the hidden target object, the resident navigation alert system automates operation of an audio system, light system, and/or haptic transducer system of the IES 410 to generate tactile, audio, and/or visual cues perceptible by the user. Continuing with the above example, the mobile app 473 may track the user’s real-time movement along a designated route to the target object/location. While traversing this route, the user may be provided with tum-by- tum navigation instructions to help them find their target. For instance, in FIG. 9B, a second tactile cue, such as a slow-pulsed, low-tension activation of lace motor 462 in only the user’s right shoe, is output through the resident navigation alert system of IES 410 via operation of the automated tensioning system 460 to inform the user to make a right-hand turn at their current location. In the same vein, the user may be informed, in real time, to make a left-hand turn at a given location via selective activation of a lace motor 462 in the user’s left shoe without concurrently activating the lace motor 462 in the user’s right shoe.

[0094] After commencing the search, one or more secondary users may assist the primary user in their search for the virtual target, offering various types of assistance. As the user location becomes closer in proximity to the target object/location, a third tactile cue (e.g., ramped pulsed activation of lace motor 462 shown in FIG. 9C) output through the navigation alert system via collaborative operation of the automated tensioning system 460 informs the user to go forward/ahead from their current location. Once the primary user reaches the location of the virtual object, as indicated at FIG. 9D, the virtual target object can be accessed. Access to the virtual object may be automatic or may require additional actions on the part of the user. Completion of the search may be relayed to the user via a fourth tactile cue, such as a rapid, high- tension pulsed activation of the lace motors 462 in both of the user’s shoes, which is output through the resident navigation alert system.

[0095] In some instances, the CRYPTOKICK™ may not be originally linked to a physical product, but instead may be gifted to the user as part of a brand promotion campaign, event, moment, or experience. For example, a user at a sporting event may be required to search for a CRYPTOKICK™ within the confines of the event’s stadium, e.g., using a mobile app and a digital camera on a smartphone device. In this example, the GPS associated with the smartphone device may further constrain optical recognition capabilities to within a particular geofenced area. The target object may be virtually disguised in a billboard advertisement, located at a specific seat, hidden in a designated area, etc. Once the CRYPTOKICK™ is located, the user may be prompted to scan a unique code, such as the barcode on their ticket to the event. This two-part action may then transfer a token uniquely provisioned for that ticket to the user’s locker. Following the event, the promotion organizer may reclaim any unclaimed KickIDs for subsequent use in other promotional events.

[0096] With reference now to the flow chart of FIG. 10, an improved method or control strategy for automating navigation assistance to a user, such as user 11 of FIG. 3, through operation of intelligent electronic footwear or apparel, such as IES 10 of FIG. 1 or IES 410 of FIG 8, is generally described at 500 in accordance with aspects of the present disclosure. Some or all of the operations illustrated in FIG. 10 and described in further detail below may be representative of an algorithm that corresponds to processor-executable instructions that may be stored, for example, in main or auxiliary or remote memory, and executed, for example, by a resident or remote controller, central processing unit (CPU), control logic circuit, or other module or device, to perform any or all of the above or below described functions associated with the disclosed concepts. It should be recognized that the order of execution of the illustrated operation blocks may be changed, additional blocks may be added, and some of the blocks described may be modified, combined, or eliminated. For instance, it is envisioned that the features and options disclosed above with reference to the method 100 of FIG. 5 may be incorporated, singly or in any combination, into the method 500 of FIG. 10, and vice versa. [0097] Method 500 begins at terminal block 501 with processor-executable instructions for a programmable controller or control module or similarly suitable processor, such as resident footwear controller 44 of FIG. 2, to call up an initialization procedure for a protocol to automate navigation assistance to a user using intelligent electronic footwear or apparel, such as IES 10 of FIG. 1 or IES 410 of FIG. 8. The initialization procedure at block 501 may be initiated via a manually entered prompt, such as by a user opening a corresponding mobile app operating on the user’s handheld computing device or a central system operator initiating a “treasure hunt” feature for a group of users. Alternatively, the initialization procedure may be automatically commenced by a resident controller or a remote computing node, such a server-class computer responsible for conducting searches for target objects/locations. Terminal block 501 may optionally incorporate any of the initialization and authentication features described above with respect to operations 101 and 103 of FIG. 5.

[0098] Method 500 advances from terminal block 501 to input/output blocks 503 and 505 to ascertain a desired or current location of the user and a predetermined or estimated location of a target object/site. A desired user location may be preset as a designated start location, such as starting line, a communal meeting place, a kiosk or terminal for completing a purchase of a pair of shoes, etc. Alternatively, the user’s current real-time location may be determined, as described above, and set as the starting position for purposes of navigation assistance at block 503. Likewise, the location of a target object/site may be predetermined and retrieved, e.g., from a remote computing node, a third-party handheld computing device, a resident cache or main memory, etc., at block 505. On the other hand, target location may be dynamic or random or may be manually selectable via a suitable HMI.

[0099] At subroutine block 507, an in-shoe footwear controller or a smartphone processing unit, or both, receives, estimates, identifies, and/or retrieves (collectively “determines”) path plan data for a current trip of the user. Path plan data may comprise any real-time, crowd-sourced, map-sourced, and/or historical data suitable for completing a desired trip. At a minimum, the path plan data may include a preset origin or real-time start position, a desired, dynamic, or randomly determined final destination, one or more intermittent stops, and a predicted route traversing from user origin to user destination. For a standalone architecture, the IES may be equipped with an onboard navigation system that utilizes a GPS transceiver in cooperation with navigation software and geolocation mapping services to obtain geographic topography, geodetic data, and traffic information associated with the user’s current location.

[00100] Establishing a predicted path for a current trip may necessitate forecasting one or more upcoming maneuvers that will be required to complete the trip. This may include flagging any potential impediments or hazards, as well as identifying one or more alternative routes. For instance, block 507 may predict a primary (first) route for completing an upcoming maneuver and, using a similar process, one or more (first, second, third, ... ) alternate routes for reaching the user destination. Once the path plan is created, a respective sequence of navigation instructions for gaited locomotion (walking, running, etc.) from the user’s location to the target’s location may be determined for each route, as indicated at subroutine block 509. These navigation instructions may include, singly and in any combination: go forward, go backward, go left, go right, speed up, slow down, start, stop, turn around, etc. Each navigation instruction may be associated with a respective location along the derived route; the list of navigation instructions and their associated locations may be saved in local cache memory for ease of retrieval.

[00101] Method 500 continues from subroutine block 509 to database block 511 and transforms each navigation instruction into a corresponding controller-generated command signal. A command signal correlates a calibrated navigation alert system cue to a given navigation instruction. A listing of available navigation instructions and their corresponding alert system outputs and related command signals may be stored in and concomitantly retrieved from a server farm via a suitable database management system (DBMS), for example. As indicated above, commencing a search may correspond to a first tactile cue, which may correspond to a prolonged activation of lace motors in the user’s shoes. Contrastingly, turn right may correspond to a second tactile cue, which may correspond to a slow-pulsed, low- tension activation of a lace motor in the user’s right shoe with no corresponding tactile output by the user’s left shoe. These cues may be supplemented with complementary visual and audible outputs, e.g., via resident lighting system 56 and resident speaker system 68 of FIGS. 1 and 2.

[00102] With continuing reference to FIG. 10, processor-executable instructions are provided at input/output block 513 for a footwear controller to transmit command signals to the footwear’s resident navigation alert system to output visual, audible, and/or tactile cues designed to guide the user along the derived route. To ensure that tum-by-tum instructions are provided at the appropriate time along a given route, the controller may systematically track the user’s real-time or near real-time movement as the user moves along the derived route. During user tracking, the controller may continually assess if each new user location in a succession of new user locations along the derived route corresponds to one of the navigation instructions provided at subroutine block 509. In this instance, a command signal may be output via the controller as a direct response to a determination that the user’s “new” location corresponds to the respective navigation instruction associated with that command signal. Once the foregoing features are completed, the method 500 of FIG. 10 may advance to terminal block 515 and terminate or may loop back to terminal block 501 and run in a continuous loop.

[00103] Disclosed adaptive apparel and footwear, including IES 10 of FIG. 1 and IES 410 of FIG. 8, may be employed to assist a user with navigating to a physical location of a stationary and dynamic object. For instance, the resident footwear controller 44 of FIG. 1 or the handheld computing device 440 of FIG. 8 may communicate with a location tracking device of a logistics-class (delivery) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to track the real-time movement of the UAV and/or ascertain a delivery location for a package being airlifted by the UAV. This information may be aggregated and processed, as described above, to provide the user with tum-by-tum instructions to locate the UAV. The IES 10, 410 may also be employed to identify the user’s location to the UAV and/or automatically authenticate the user to the UAV before the package will be released. A similar approach may be employed to guide a user to meet a passenger drone (“flying taxi”) or a commercial-class air taxi or a hub for solicitation of air transportation.

[00104] Similar to assisting with package deliveries via UAV, disclosed adaptive apparel and footwear may be adapted for in-store and curbside pickup of goods (e.g., buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS)). In a non-limiting example, a user may place an online, telephone, or app order, e.g., for food or goods, and travel to a designated pickup location (internal or external to a brick-and-mortar store) for retrieving the order. Upon arrival, the IES may automatically transmit a message to a store kiosk, central server, or associate notifying the retailer of the user’s arrival. The store associate transports the order to the user’s location, which may be provided via any of the manners disclosed herein; the associate employs a countertop or handheld point- of-sale (POS) device connected with the IES and/or IOAAF system to locate, identify, and/or wireless authenticate the user before transferring the items.

[00105] Further options for use of disclosed adaptive apparel and footwear include a physical activity, such as a running challenge experience, that is enhanced via augmented reality, such as a user competing with another user’s virtual self (“ghost”). For instance, a pair of users selects a designated location, course, or distance to conduct a virtual race. On a first date and/or time, a first user may travel to the designated location/course and finish the race (e.g., completes two laps around a 1- mile track at a time of approximately ten minutes); this data may be collected and stored by the first user’s IES. At a subsequent date/time, a second user travels to the designated location/course and begins the race to virtually compete with the first user. As the second user is completing the race, the IES may track their progress and provide them with regular or real-time updates. For instance, after completing one lap, the second user is informed via their IES that their first laps’ time is slower than that of the first user; a notification may be provided to speed up if the wish to beat the first user. Such information may be provided by tactile feedback, light display, and/or audio output of the IES. The second user’s race time and related data may be collected and stored by their IES and transmitted to the first user’s IES. Additional information regarding enhancing physical exercise using AR can be found, for example, in U.S. Patent App. Pub. No. 2016/0346612 Al, to Craig Rowley, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety and for all purposes.

[00106] The foregoing concept may be employed for other one-on-one and team- related physical activities, such as golf, baseball, basketball, football, etc. Some of these physical activities may be assisted with other sensing and monitoring systems and other wearable electronics, such as a head-wom heads-up display (HUD) system. Additional information regarding the use of electronic tracking systems and wearable electronics to convey data related to a sporting event can be found, for example, in commonly owned U.S. Patent Appl. Pub. Nos. 2020/0078653 Al, 2017/0340948 Al, 2017/0157492 Al, and 2017/0157490 Al, each of which is incorporated herein by reference in its respective entirety and for all purposes.

[00107] Disclosed adaptive apparel and footwear may also be employed as part of a AR or VR team contest, such as a product unlock experience where a first team competes with one or more other teams to secure a limited-release item. In accord with a more specific, non-limiting example, a first user travels to a command center that includes a map with the location of a hidden item. The first user communicates with a second user via IES feedback. The second user is located in a puzzle environment; the first user located in the command center transmits navigation instructions to the second user to help them navigate to the prize. The first and second users are a team or a portion of a team that is competing with other teams to be the first to located and unlock this prize.

[00108] Further options may include using disclosed adaptive apparel and footwear feedback to enable users to greet or otherwise communicate with one another, such as a virtual handshake or greeting replacement, e.g., in scenarios where physical contact is not available or is undesirable. Moreover, IoAFF feedback may be employed to assist users with communicating with other users to warn of encroachment into personal space (e.g., to help maintain social distancing. IoAFF feedback may be employed for detecting if a first user is unexpectedly or quickly approaching a second user from a determined direction. An IES user, for example, may be warned that another person is approaching them from behind or from a blind spot to rob or hurt them or, alternatively, as part of a race or competition.

[00109] Aspects of this disclosure may be implemented, in some embodiments, through a computer-executable program of instructions, such as program modules, generally referred to as software applications or application programs executed by any of a controller or the controller variations described herein. Software may include, in non-limiting examples, routines, programs, objects, components, and data structures that perform particular tasks or implement particular data types. The software may form an interface to allow a computer to react according to a source of input. The software may also cooperate with other code segments to initiate a variety of tasks in response to data received in conjunction with the source of the received data. The software may be stored on any of a variety of memory media, such as CD-ROM, magnetic disk, bubble memory, and semiconductor memory (e.g., various types of RAM or ROM).

[00110] Moreover, aspects of the present disclosure may be practiced with a variety of computer-system and computer-network configurations, including multiprocessor systems, microprocessor-based or programmable-consumer electronics, minicomputers, mainframe computers, and the like. In addition, aspects of the present disclosure may be practiced in distributed-computing environments where tasks are performed by resident and remote-processing devices that are linked through a communications network. In a distributed-computing environment, program modules may be located in both local and remote computer-storage media including memory storage devices. Aspects of the present disclosure may therefore be implemented in connection with various hardware, software or a combination thereof, in a computer system or other processing system.

[00111] Any of the methods described herein may include machine readable instructions for execution by: (a) a processor, (b) a controller, and/or (c) any other suitable processing device. Any algorithm, software, control logic, protocol or method disclosed herein may be embodied as software stored on a tangible medium such as, for example, a flash memory, a CD-ROM, a floppy disk, a hard drive, a digital versatile disk (DVD), or other memory devices. The entire algorithm, control logic, protocol, or method, and/or parts thereof, may alternatively be executed by a device other than a controller and/or embodied in firmware or dedicated hardware in an available manner (e.g., implemented by an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), a programmable logic device (PLD), a field programmable logic device (FPLD), discrete logic, etc.). Further, although specific algorithms are described with reference to flowcharts depicted herein, many other methods for implementing the example machine-readable instructions may alternatively be used.

[00112] Additional features may be reflected in the following clauses:

[00113] Clause 1: an intelligent electronic shoe (IES) for assisting a user with navigating to a target object or site in a geographic area, the IES comprising: a shoe structure configured to attach to and support thereon a foot of the user; a navigation alert system mounted to the shoe structure and configured to generate visible, audible, and/or haptic outputs responsive to command signals; a wireless communications device configured to wirelessly communicate with a remote computing node; and a controller communicatively connected to the navigation alert system and the wireless communications device, the controller being programmed to: determine a user location of the user; receive, from the remote computing node, a target location of the target object or site; determine path plan data including a derived route for traversing from the user location to the target location within the geographic area; and transmit command signals to the navigation alert system to output visual, audio, and/or tactile cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

[00114] Clause 2: the IES of clause 1, wherein the path plan data further includes a sequence of navigation instructions for gaited locomotion from the user location to the target location, and wherein each of the command signals corresponds to a calibrated navigation alert system cue indicative of a respective navigation instruction in the sequence of navigation instructions.

[00115] Clause 3: the IES of clause 2, wherein the controller is further programmed to: track real-time movement of the user along the derived route; and determine if each new user location in a succession of new user locations along the derived route corresponds to one of the navigation instructions in the sequence of navigation instructions, wherein each of the command signals is transmitted responsive to a determination that one of the new user locations corresponds to the respective navigation instruction associated with the command signal.

[00116] Clause 4: the IES of clause 3, wherein each of the navigation instructions includes: go forward, go backward, go left, go right, speed up, slow down, start, stop, and/or turn around.

[00117] Clause 5: the IES of any one of clauses 1 to 4, wherein the controller is further programmed to transmit a start command signal to the navigation alert system to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue configured to notify the user to begin traversing along the derived route.

[00118] Clause 6: the IES of any one of clauses 1 to 5, wherein the controller is further programmed to transmit a finish command signal to the navigation alert system to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue configured to notify the user they have arrived at the target location.

[00119] Clause 7: the IES of any one of clauses 1 to 6, wherein the target object or site includes a virtual object located at a virtual position.

[00120] Clause 8: the IES of any one of clauses 1 to 7, wherein the navigation alert system includes a haptic transducer, and wherein the command signals cause the haptic transducer to generate haptic cues.

[00121] Clause 9: the IES of clause 8, further comprising a shoelace or strap attached to the shoe structure, and wherein the haptic transducer includes a lace motor mounted on or inside the shoe structure and configured to selectively transition the shoelace or strap between a tensioned state and an untensioned state.

[00122] Clause 10: the IES of clause 9, wherein the shoe structure includes left and right shoe structures each configured to attach to and support thereon a left foot and a right foot of the user, respectively, and wherein the lace motor includes first and second lace motors mounted to the left and right shoe structures, respectively. [00123] Clause 11: the IES of clause 10, wherein the command signals activate the first and second lace motors, individually and cooperatively, to thereby generate haptic cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

[00124] Clause 12: the IES of clause 11, wherein the command signals modulate a motor speed and/or an applied tension of the first and second lace motors to thereby generate additional haptic cues configured to guide the user along the derived route. [00125] Clause 13: the IES of any one of clauses 1 to 12, wherein the navigation alert system includes an audio system, and wherein the command signals cause the audio system to generate predefined sound outputs.

[00126] Clause 14: the IES of any one of clauses 1 to 13, wherein the navigation alert system includes a light system, and wherein the command signals cause the light system to generate predefined light outputs.

[00127] Clause 15: the IES of any one of clauses 1 to 14, wherein the user has a portable electronic device, and wherein the wireless communications device is further configured to wirelessly connect to the portable electronic device and thereby wirelessly communicate with the remote computing node.

[00128] Clause 16: the IES of any one of clauses 1 to 15, further comprising a sensor mounted to the shoe structure, communicatively connected to the controller, and configured to detect a presence of the foot of the user in the shoe structure, and wherein the controller is further programmed to receive a sensor signal from the sensor indicative of the foot being in the shoe structure, the controller transmitting the command signals in response to receiving the sensor signal.

[00129] Clause 17: the IES of any one of clauses 1 to 16, wherein the target location of the target object or site includes a geofence, and wherein the controller is further programmed to transmit, responsive to detection of the user breaching the geofence, a finish command signal to the navigation alert system to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue configured to notify the user they have reached the target object or site.

[00130] Clause 18: a method of operating an intelligent electronic shoe (IES) for assisting a user with navigating to a target object or location in a geographic area, the IES including a shoe structure configured to attach to and support thereon a foot of the user, the method comprising: receiving, via a controller through a wireless communications device, location data indicative of a user location of the user; receiving, via the controller through the wireless communications device from a remote computing node, location data indicative of a target location of the target object or site; determining, via the controller, path plan data including a derived route for traversing from the user location to the target location within the geographic area; and transmitting, via the controller to a navigation alert system mounted to the shoe structure, command signals to output visual, audio, and/or tactile cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

[00131] Clause 19: the method of clause 18, wherein the path plan data further includes a sequence of navigation instructions for gaited locomotion from the user location to the target location, and wherein each of the command signals corresponds to a calibrated navigation alert system cue indicative of a respective navigation instruction in the sequence of navigation instructions..

[00132] Clause 20: the method of clause 19, further comprising: tracking real-time movement of the user along the derived route; and determining if each new user location in a succession of new user locations along the derived route corresponds to one of the navigation instructions in the sequence of navigation instructions, wherein each of the command signals is transmitted responsive to a determination that one of the new user locations corresponds to the respective navigation instruction associated with the command signal.

[00133] Clause 21: the method of any one of clauses 18 to 20, further comprising transmitting, via the controller to the navigation alert system, a start command signal to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue configured to notify the user to begin traversing along the derived route.

[00134] Clause 22: the method of any one of clauses 18 to 21, further comprising transmitting, via the controller to the navigation alert system, a finish command signal to output a visual, audio, and/or haptic cue configured to notify the user they have arrived at the target location.

[00135] Clause 23: the method of any one of clauses 18 to 22, wherein the target object or site includes a virtual object located at a virtual position.

[00136] Clause 24: the method of any one of clauses 18 to 23, wherein the navigation alert system includes a haptic transducer, and wherein the command signals cause the haptic transducer to generate haptic cues.

[00137] Clause 25: the method of clause 24, wherein the haptic transducer includes a lace motor mounted on or inside the shoe structure and configured to selectively transition a shoelace or strap attached to the shoe structure between a tensioned state and an untensioned state.

[00138] Clause 26: the method of clause 25, wherein the shoe structure includes left and right shoe structures each configured to attach to and support thereon left and right feet of the user, respectively, and wherein the lace motor includes first and second lace motors mounted to the left and right shoe structures, respectively.

[00139] Clause 27: the method of clause 26, wherein the command signals activate the first and second lace motors, individually and cooperatively, to thereby generate haptic cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

[00140] Clause 28: the method of clause 27, wherein the command signals modulate a motor speed and/or an applied tension of the first and second lace motors to thereby generate additional haptic cues configured to guide the user along the derived route.

[00141] Clause 29: the method of any one of clauses 18 to 28, wherein the navigation alert system includes an audio system and/or a light system, and wherein the command signals cause the audio system to generate predefined sound outputs and/or the light system to generate predefined light outputs.

[00142] Clause 30: the method of any one of clauses 18 to 29, wherein the user has a portable electronic device, and wherein the wireless communications device wirelessly connects to the portable electronic device to thereby wirelessly communicate with the remote computing node.

[00143] Aspects of the present disclosure have been described in detail with reference to the illustrated embodiments; those skilled in the art will recognize, however, that many modifications may be made thereto without departing from the scope of the present disclosure. The present disclosure is not limited to the precise construction and compositions disclosed herein; any and all modifications, changes, and variations apparent from the foregoing descriptions are within the scope of the disclosure as defined by the appended claims. Moreover, the present concepts expressly include any and all combinations and subcombinations of the preceding elements and features.