A Strange New Type of Sat-Nav

A Strange New Type of Sat-Nav

March 21, 2016 Written by Al
A Strange New Type of Sat-Nav

Sat-navs. We all have one, whether it is a traditional, screen stuck, Tom-Tom or an iPhone integration. Smartphones and in-car technology ensure that we can never be lost in the wilderness.

Until now, sat-navs have always gone along the same kind of lines. A map is displayed in front of the driver, directing them towards their destination. This has gone through numerous iterations in recent years, with head up display being one of the latest developments in the area of satellite navigation. The future of sat-navs seemed clear, with having a more natural integration with the car being the most logical way forward. After all, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no. Where it is the most commercially viable option to create something within the car, or develop something to place inside the car, it is not the only option. Recently General Motors, the American car manufacturer, decided to put this to the test and, inspired by earless headphones, creates a set of frames that directly transmit to the ear. This is called the haptic system.

What they have created is a prototype smart-glasses device with two separate actuators located behind both ears. These transmit vibrations into the ear, and toward the sensitive bones within the ear canal. These pick up the vibrations to give the driver instructions. This results in a vibration behind the left ear for turning left, and behind the right ear for turning right. At 800 meters the actuators buzz once, at 400m twice, and at 200m three times. These can be pared up with basic symbols on a in-car screen to give a far less distracting sat-nav experience.

Although fairly rudimentary at the moment this development does represent something far larger. It shows how wearable tech can become something genuinely useful to drivers whilst in the car.

It also brings to questions a few ideas about how it could be improved. Apparently, researchers found that less mental energy was needed to use the haptic smart-glasses than was needed to interpret a normal sat-nav. This means that it could give a far richer experience, as well as a potentially safer one.

According to a study conducted by the University of Utah, vocal sat-navs can cause up to 27 seconds of inattention after they speak. This means that a sat-nav that announces its appearance vocally is important, but it can also be considered dangerous. This is where the haptic sat-nav comes in. It takes less effort but it also directs the driver towards their location.

Whether this will catch on is debatable. It is a fantastic idea, yet one which requires a fair change in consumer behaviour. This being said, there is no reason why, when it is more refined, this could not be the case, using science to create a safer driver rather than just using consumer surveys. It is a real innovation and one we hope to see more of in the future.


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