What happens when you cross the Google earth satellite image database, an ‘always on’ vehicle internet connection similar to what is used in Apples iPhone, and the vehicles GPS position?
This is the visualization challenge I set myself one day after enthusing about the rapid progress of Google Earth to a friend. If you’ve played with Google Earth for a while, you know that you can not only move around using a ‘birds-eye- view of the satellite image, but you can tilt the image until you are actually at ground level.
Then, with a bit of tricky mouse work, you can actually navigate through a real landscape as if you were driving. When you add some driving directions, a lovely purple line appears, showing you where to drive, and conveniently poping up the driving directions as you progress along your route. I took a short virtual drive from my home to my workplace to test out this concept. It turned out to be way cool…
Actually, hovering about 400 feet off the ground seemed to give you the best mix of clarity of the immediate neighbourhood, without actually sacrificing the sensation of more or less being in that actual location. Here’s an idea of the sort of view you would get while navigating.
View of my street showing your street location, and turn and street information
How could all of this work? Well, as you drive, your car’s GPS communicates real time information to some custom software. This software in turn logs into the Google Earth database synchronizes the GPS position of your vehicle with the onscreen satellite image, and the zoom and tilt view that you’ve chosen to use.
In terms of data quantity – a vehicle driving at say 70mph, with a always on internet connection, would provide more than enough time to download the required satellite imagery. Buffering of the images along your route would be done in advance, to either reduce the bandwidth requirement, or make up for potential breaks in the cellphone net that provides the internet data stream
The system could possibly also ‘record’ a journey in real time, in order to give a ‘visual direction file’, that can be saved (ie. the GPS track of an actual or navigation generated journey, and given to friends as a preview of the route to their home or a meeting place. Your friends could download this journey from your car’s online system, and ‘pre-play’ the visual directions of the journey in order to familiarize themselves with the journey they are about to make.
Overlays sourced from the Geographic Web database would indicate key reference points on the route, to make navigation easier.
For a major auto manufacturer to take on this solution, an alliance with the geographic web provider like Google, and a partnership with telecommunications provider that provides realtime data feed to the vehicle for the data synchronization. Ford has partnered with Microsoft with their ‘Sync’ product, I’ve heard its a good product but I’m not sure if it integrates navigation in any way. A GM partnership with Google could revitalize the GM brand segment with it’s existing proprioritory Onstar offering towards the Google savy generation (late x and y generation).
This generation is the first one that has never known a world without ubiqutous electronic devices, and they are now buying their first vehicles. Thus, the similarity to video game concept is crucial. Current navigations systems are rather ‘adult’ in their approach to map display and functionality. The video game generation needs instant immersion in the system.
When you put directions in the system, it could be even programmed to zoom in on your current location, like Google earth at startup. This intensifies the feeling of ‘globalization’ of the system, and the video game like attractiveness of the navigation interface.
A ‘Safe driver’ view could provide a slightly zoomed out view of the road ahead – alerting to the driver to potential environmental hazards such as hidden driveways or unexpected bends, hundreds of meters down the road. Potentially, a zoomed out, at a glance view of the satellite picture of the road ahead could contribute much more to safe driving that the array of detection type radar systems being developed by Mercedes and other automakers – at potentially significantly reduced cost in on-car hardware and sensors – and significantly more day to day useability
Safe driver view showing potential hazards within the next quarter mile.
A preset route could be buffered within the car’s memory, so that if the online connection was broken due to network breaks (or to reduce tranmission overhead) the visual display would not be interupted. The GPS location of the vehicle would synchonise with the buffered version of the satellite imagery and the data objects, rather than a real time version. Some amount of buffering would be standard – but just like Google Earth works today, the
Zooming out, you can search for restaurants in the vicinity of your route, and by using Geographic web content, select the screen to dial the restaurant using the navigation systems inbuilt functionality.
People location: Friends can turn on their ‘find me’ functionality to allow their friends to know where they are. When ‘Find me’ is turned on, their car or phone transmits their GPS location. Another driver can dial in your location to navigate to where you are, using your destination as the location. Obviously, if two people are both driving, the system would be recalculating the