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Tactile Navigation Lets You Feel GPS Directions

Tactile Navigation System
When using a GPS, you generally have two choices for getting your directions: looking at the screen, and listening to audio cues. The problem is that taking your eyes off the road, even momentarily, can be dangerous, and the polite British woman (or Darth Vader, depending on your level of geekiness) is not always audible over your blaring stereo and the din of traffic. A new system being developed at the University of Utah allows drivers to receive directions via touch.

The tactile feedback system places two devices, built around IBM TrackPoints (those little red nubs on ThinkPad laptops), on the steering wheel. When the GPS calls for a left turn, the TrackPoints nudge the driver's fingers left, nudging them right for a right turn. In simulations, distracted drivers made the correct turn 98-percent of the time using the tactile direction system, as compared to 74-percent of the time using only audio or visual cues. Researchers think the technology could help hearing-impaired drivers, or even be used to create GPS-enabled walking sticks for the blind. Sadly, however, there is little hope that it will make navigating New Jersey highways any easier.

Tags: accessibility, car, cartech, driving, GPS, hearingimpaired, navigation, TactileFeedback, top, transportation