Wikitude Drive AR navigation system keeps your eyes on the road
By Ben Coxworth
September 4, 2011
Although many of us don't know how we ever managed without our car navigation systems, they are not without their flaws. For one thing, when that voice says "Turn left in 100 meters," you may find yourself looking out the windshield and wondering "Does that mean this left turn, or the one just past it?" The Wikitude Drive augmented reality navigation app is designed to address these problems, by overlaying directional arrows on real-time video of the road in front of you.
Drive works on select Android smartphones, that have sufficiently capable GPS sensors. Once it is loaded onto such a device, the phone is mounted horizontally on the inside of the windshield. Users have to supply their own suction cup windshield mount.
The phone's camera provides live video of the road, upon which three-dimensional route markers are superimposed - their transparency can be adjusted. In this way, even when drivers are looking at the screen, they're still seeing the traffic and pedestrians in front of them. There's also no ambiguity as to where they should turn. It is possible that the app could give drivers a false sense of safety, however, in that they might forget how little peripheral vision the phone's camera offers.
Upon leaving the car, drivers can switch to Pedestrian Mode, and continue to use the app to find their way on foot. Because there may be some situations in a which a conventional 3D map-only view is preferable, that mode can also be selected.
Wikitude Drive can be downloaded through the company website, which also has a list of compatible smartphones. So far, the app is only to users in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, France, Italy and the UK.
Blaupunkt's Travelpilot navigation system is quite similar, although it is available only as a complete device, not an app.
The video below shows Wikitude Drive in use.