Natural Guidance from Navteq – a more human angle on navigation
By Loz Blain
September 6, 2010
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?