Augmented Reality Sat-Nav Wins Innovation Award

Monday, 11 March 2013

Less than 20 years ago, the idea of a car talking to you was far-flung and futuristic – something for the realms of sci-fi movies and David Hasselhoff only – but today, the majority of drivers think nothing of receiving helpful spoken directions from a computer each time they set out on a journey.

The latest innovations in sat-nav technology, however, can do far more than just talk. The big winner at the recent European Satellite Navigation competition, held in Munich, was incredible augmented reality display system True3D HUD.

The system converts routes into a red 'guidewire', which can be seen on the windscreen but appears to be winding and bending on the road above, directing the driver. The True3D HUD also uses 3D pop-ups to inform drivers of upcoming hotels and petrol stations, and uses digital road signs to alert drivers to upcoming hazards.

How does it work?

Inside the dashboard, a virtual cable is drawn by a laser projector using a tiny screen, around 60 times per second. The screen vibrates like an audio speaker to allow the laser to draw vertically, so hills and dips can be displayed. The red line then gets delayed through a number of lenses, until finally it is reflected onto the windscreen and appears to be superimposed above the road.

True3D HUD has to be installed at the manufacturing stage, but doesn’t require eye-tracking technology, holographic windscreens or 3D glasses to work.

Some critics have warned that augmented reality sat-nav could be too distracting for drivers, potentially bumping up the cost of car insurance, but after a series of stringent safety and effectiveness tests led by Nasa which concluded that it is possible to drive safely with True3D, the new sat-nav has been patented and the Californian inventors are currently looking for commercial partners.

Runners-up for the prestigious European Satellite Navigation award included a mobile unit able to detect signs of epilepsy and a system designed to reduce CO2 emissions of buses by predicting when they’ll need refuelling, but True3D innovators MVS ultimately walked away with the £17,000 prize.

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