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Natural Guidance from Navteq – a more human angle on navigation

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September 6, 2010

'Take a left after the church' – Navteq's Natural Guidance system aims to make GPS navig...

'Take a left after the church' – Navteq's Natural Guidance system aims to make GPS navigation instructions more like what a passenger who knows the way might say to you.

Brilliant idea or bad move? Awful advertising, either way. Navteq has decided that typical turn-by-turn navigation instructions like "in 300 meters, turn left" aren't 'human' enough. That's not how a human navigator would direct you; in fact you kind of need to train your brain to be comfortable with that kind of instruction. Navteq's thinking is that a driver will respond more effectively and comfortably to visual cues like "turn left after the church" or "turn right after the yellow house," so it's rolling out a 'Natural Guidance' system that does just that. It seems like a fairly huge task to put together those sorts of navigation cues across a whole set of maps, but Navteq already has 10 cities' worth of cues programmed in. It'll be interesting to see if it's worth all the effort. Oh, and it's worth clicking through just to see Navteq present the system in one of the most offensively patronizing ad videos we've seen.

Navteq used the 2010 IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin to launch its 'Natural Guidance' system, a series of voice navigation cues that the company believes will be much easier to understand than typical navigation instructions.

The Natural Guidance system aims to act more like a human navigator, pointing out much more visual cues like recognizable buildings, traffic signals and the like that might help drivers respond more intuitively than the typical "turn in 300 meters" sort of instructions a sat-nav device usually spits out.

Of course, putting together the cues for such a system has its own set of inherent dramas – businesses might change hands or be repainted, cues for the same turnoff will have to be different from each approach direction, and then there's issues like buildings which might be perfectly visible in winter, but could be hidden behind leafy tree branches in summer.

Putting together audio cues like this must be a gigantic job, but as all the large navigation companies fight each other for relevancy in the smartphone era, Navteq is clearly hoping this might distinguish it from the herd.

The elephant in the room for navigation companies has got to be Google Maps, which is starting to seriously get into the turn-by-turn navigation sphere. Google's phenomenal collection of additional data on traffic, news, businesses and social networks allow it to deliver a highly enriched navigation experience – and the gigantic resource of Street View allows Google to show you actual photos of the turn you're about to take, so you can suss it out with a glance and basically come up with your own visual navigation cues to look for.

Luckily for GPS companies, Google's entire model relies on constant data connection to the Internet, which isn't a viable replacement for self-contained GPS systems just yet for most people.

Take a look at the vastly over the top video below to see Navteq's natural guidance in action. Perhaps you're the sort of person that wants to make cups of tea for your GPS system too. Who writes this stuff?

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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5 Comments

And when the 'building with the green awning' redecorates, you get lost. And people who are color-blind are just left out entirely. How often does Navteq intend to update their database, and what will they charge you every time they do? I think this is not as good an idea as they think it is.

George Van Wagner
6th September, 2010 @ 11:46 am PDT

As the previous commenter said. In theory it is great but in practice it must be near impossible to keep up to date. Not only do visual queues change, they also get blocked by parked trucks or building activities.

But they have a point. Many people can't tell what 100 meters looks like so turning the instructions into more human form is a great idea. Very brave though for this company to try it.

When you drive with a person next to you that is navigating that person tends to wave her arms pointing left and right on where to go. Possibly Navigation can be super imposed on the windscreen as kind of a HUD device.

Paul van Dinther
6th September, 2010 @ 03:24 pm PDT

Instead of asking up to 85GBP for an update I wish they's rather just save the money and pass the savings on to the customer.

Francois Retief
7th September, 2010 @ 07:32 am PDT

Some of the issues mentioned in the article apply equally well to Google Maps, particularly the "street view" option. How often are the photos comprising street views updated ? Try checking your own neighborhood or local roads; some are up to date, others not. Seasonal/weather changes apply as well. These will always be challenging for any mapping service until we "achieve" full-time surveillance of all roadways, at which point we will have computer guided automobiles available.

Dave Brumley
7th September, 2010 @ 11:08 am PDT

I hate the voice, i turn the sound off, I also use the map view as I can't stand arrows and fake streets, they are never very clear. Personally I would like it if it made one tone turn left soon and one for turn right soon. then I can glance at the screen and get more details if need. Most of the time it

My gps says , turn right in xxx yards at xxxx street. "turn" is redundant. "IN" is not needed "xxx yards" is most likely is not accurate enough to be counted on, is it based on when she starts talking or stops, half the time I am through the turn when it gets to the street name. And honestly isn't the street name pointless many roads go by different names, may you don't know the name till its to late.

So how ding for right tun in 15 seconds at current speed, and dong for left turn in 15 seconds at current rate of speed. And if you want you can make a third tone at 30 seconds out, in case you need to change lanes..

then put all the possible names of the streets in big letters on my GPS.

Well it won't happen, marketing people drive product development and marketing people like words.

Michael Mantion
7th September, 2010 @ 08:26 pm PDT
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