18 posts from GPS Faction
A while ago on this blog we talked about unusual uses for GPS. Along with child and dog tracking, underwear location and assorted other bits, this one somehow managed to miss us. Just when you thought that it was man that invented global positioning navigation, it turns out that Mother Nature had this figured out millennia ago.
A team of bright sparks at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have discovered that insects posses a form of GPS navigation in their antenna. Monarch butterflies use their internal body clock to navigate using the sun and change their position as the sun moves across the sky.
Professor Reppert at the University says "We've known that the insect antenna is a remarkable organ, responsible for sensing not only olfactory cues but wind direction and even sound vibration," adding "But its role in precise orientation over the course of butterfly migration is an intriguing new discovery,"
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Picture from Yanko Design
The possibilities are intriguing—a small portable device that can project a map, along with your location, onto virtually any surface. Maptor promises to do just that. This slick looking proof-of-concept combines a digital projector and a GPS into a form factor roughly equivalent to those mini flashlights you dangle from your key chain. While the idea has potential, this prototype personal navigation device raises a few questions here at Mio.
Small projectors have been a reality for several years now. One needs look no further than the projector phones currently coming out of Asia. Applications for compact projector technology include portable computing and presentations, video and image display, and even gaming, but are we ready for compact GPS projectors?
Desert sun - a difficult place to use a Maptor
The common problem with projectors is that nearly all require a dark or semi-dark environment to operate properly. However, it appears that the makers of Maptor imagine the device being used mostly for outdoor navigation. It is difficult for our own design gurus to imagine such a small device generating the candlepower necessary to project a readable image in direct sunlight. Midday desert hikes are definitely out. The Mio engineers also point out that projector lamps run notoriously hot. There is a row of tiny vents near the lens-end of the device, but will these be sufficient to dissipate heat during normal use? Talk about too-hot-to-handle!
Not to be labeled overly skeptical, we are encouraged by the innovative potential behind the Maptor design concept. Looking to the future, we at Mio see a world of possibilities for the integration of small personal GPS devices into our everyday lives. The navigation device market continues to expand into new and exciting areas. As GPS chipsets become smaller and more powerful, innovators have begun to integrate personal navigation technology into watches, clothing and even footwear. However, this compact GPS projector needs more work before it realizes its potential.
The future of projection in the personal navigation market may be something along the lines of Pranav Mistry's prototype gadget, SixthSense. The ultimate geek dream, SixthSense takes a page from the futuristic vision of Minority Report, in which computer users interface with holographic touch screens. The device's main components are a pocket projector, mirror, camera and colored pads worn on the fingertips. Like Maptor, SixthSense projects images onto walls and other surfaces, but takes things a step further by allowing the user to interact with the projected image using hand gestures a la Tom Cruise's character in the aforementioned film. The prototype even includes a map application that allows navigation via hand gestures to pan and zoom in and out of the map area. If this functionality were wed to a GPS, the possibilities would be even more intriguing.
Devices like SixthSense and Maptor show that we are on the brink of seeing some amazing leaps forward in personal navigation and GPS technology. Here at Mio, we look forward to seeing where these lead as prototypes become more polished.
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Although the human brain has a breakdown when it comes to remembering numbers longer than 10 digits, could the use of cell phones be having a detrimental effect? Years ago there was no problem remembering phone numbers, you had no choice. You may have had a phone book, but you could remember six or so phone numbers without any problems.
Picture from The Alchemist Lab
Today it appears that that GPS navigation devices maybe actually changing the way in which our brain's form cognitive maps. As any London black cab driver will tell you ad nauseam "we're the best cabbies in the world". This is because of their extra large rear hippocampuses, caused by three years of riding around every London street before they can take "The Knowledge". But for us mere mortals our brains usually do a pretty good job of picturing areas and routes in our minds eye.
Alex Hutchinson in The Walrus writes that…neuroscientists are starting to uncover a two-way street: our brains determine how we navigate, but our navigational efforts also shape our brains."
Experts are starting to see signs that changes in our brains will occur as we grow accustomed to using GPS devices, and not our minds to see the route ahead. But adaptation is what humans have been doing for millennia; this is just one more thing to adapt to.