my personal blog

June 17, 2008

Transforming In-Dash Navigation

Filed under: business,school,technology — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 9:42 am

Adapted from school a project write-up from last semester — When you add several ingredients together, the result will either become nothing more than a hodgepodge of dissimilar ingredients, or something new and equal to much more than the sum of its parts. The latter case is a transformation. It’s the difference between the tacked-on motion-sensor in the PlayStation 3 controller and the motion-sensitive functions of the Nintendo Wii. Or the difference between sites developed from the ground up to foster social networking and sites which added this functionality as another bullet point in their list of features. It might be difficult to tell when a media transformation has occurred, but it’s pretty easy to tell when one has not.

Several months ago, the project team I became a part of set out to create something out of little more than a marketing phrase, a few ideas stemming from it, and a combination of several media. the “product” became called NavShield. We set out to take the head up display (HUD) technology already available in some vehicles—the Corvette has had this feature for nearly a decade—combine it with several current and upcoming vehicle technologies, and refine it into something new. We started out by thinking about how “cool” it would be to project pretty Apple-esque icons onto the HUD on your windshield. I came up with ideas by driving and having “if only I had this feature” moments. The “thinking process” of the system would be something like this:

  • Navigation information is pulled from a GPS receiver (e.g. where you are and where you’re going)
  • This information is augmented with location-relevant information pulled from the internet via Wi-Fi or Wi-Max (e.g. gas stations nearby, weather in the area)
  • The location-based information is refined based on your preferences (e.g. only gas stations nearby that sell diesel fuel, only whether or not it is expected to rain in your destination at the time you are scheduled to arrive based on your current average speed)
  • Finally, the augmented, filtered information gets placed on your HUD

The group’s first tendency was to come up with as many ideas for icons as possible, and clutter the windshield with pretty icons. Just as your first tendency upon first using Mac OS X’s Dashboard or Yahoo! Widgets or Windows Vista’s Sidebar would be to search for and add any widget that perks your fancy until your desktop becomes a mess. While no harm can be done by having too many of these widgets on your computer, having too many on your windshield would be a disaster. That’s why I came up with this process above to connect and filter the data that comes in, and only display the end result.

After showing our project in its current form at the Showcase of Undergraduate Research Excellence event at UCF, the single most frequent piece of feedback we received was the following question: “What about driver distraction?” I recall that driver distraction was an issue when BMW’s iDrive debuted because many core functions’ hardware buttons were replaced with computer-like menus and sub-menus displayed on-screen. The trend is toward displaying more information on the navigation screen, and I felt that were it backed with psychological research, the NavShield project could solve this issue.

While conducting psychology experiments pertaining to driver distraction, and then usability tests on the interface are well outside scope of this one-semester project, it’s definitely the next step. In the meantime, I decided on some measures to limit driver distraction:

  • Limiting HUD to upper-third: I decided on a rule that, should something like get to working prototype stage, the HUD could only be displayed on the upper-third of the windshield. What I thought was, if the law prohibits tint below that part of the windshield because of visibility issues, then we should prohibit HUDs below that part of the windshield for the same reason.
  • Prioritizing information: Information would be grouped into several types, and prioritized. For example, when at speed, only the most important information (e.g. current speed) would be displayed, but while stopped, second-tier information could also appear. Beyond that, context- or location-relevant information would appear only when needed. For example, an arrow telling you which turn to make would only appear as the turn approaches.

The dashboard screens available in many of today’s automobiles cram as much information as viable, and it seems apparent that this information is added mostly to one-up the competition in terms of feature sets. It’s not uncommon for systems which previously gathered and displayed only navigation information now connect with and display everything from your media player’s music list to your phone’s contact list. At present, the only product on the market putting this information together in a package that feels transformational and not simply tacked-on is Microsoft’s Sync. The Dash navigation system also works similarly to what I have outlined for NavShield; for example, it combines GPS information with traffic data pulled from over the internet. Therefore, I would use these two products are the benchmarks for NavShield were the project taken further.

While I’m not so deluded to say that my project team’s semester project has already reached the level of becoming a piece of transformational media, I do feel that it’s on the right track. The idea of grabbing a lot of information from many sources, intelligently putting them together, filtering them based on user preferences, and displaying only the most relevant information is key, and I feel it means the difference between transforming disparate media into a cohesive whole versus a bullet list of features. Furthermore, even if we were to ignore the application, the idea of collecting, connecting, filtering, and displaying information has applications in any field. It’s something key to the attention data and data portability movements and something that will change the way we behave as much as social networking has.

May 11, 2008

Missed Connections (Orlando)

Filed under: humor — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Alfonso Surroca @ 1:48 pm

As anyone who frequents Craigslist knows, the Missed Connections section is quite possibly one of the best ways online to laugh at losers in your very own neighborhood. Sure, one might hope these posts are jokes, lest humanity be that pathetic. These are just a few posts I found from my area (Orlando) on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

You took my Orange Juice recomendation at 7-11 Princeton/Orange – m4w – 26 (orlando/winter park)

well, you have a beautiful smile for sure and thanks for sharing it with me today, my morning went a lil smoother because of it, but yeah i was the blonde haired worker dude re-upping on ye old hydration and felt that maybe i could have started a lil convo, but maybe this will catch ya, yeah right, but hey maybe this could work you never know,

I’m not sure how far recommending OJ at 7-Eleven and talking like a reject from Juno was going to get this possible LARP enthusiast if he had the cojones to actually start a conversation with this convenience store customer. Somehow I think it’s for the best this guy didn’t open his mouth in public.

Betos Today 12:15 – m4w (Casselberry Betos)

You ate your lunch alone, which is very strange. Women who look as good you do, rarely eat alone. You sat so properly, a truely refined women. You wore all black, glasses, antique watch, and a diamond ring on you right finger.

Me – Black shirt, jeans, and Highway Patrol type sunglasses – smitten

I would be honored to join you for lunch, whenever you want.

For those outside Orlando, Beto’s is a local 24-hour taco shop known for being cheap and dirty—really, that’s one of the things that makes Beto’s so charming. What I’m getting at is, it’s pretty strange to see people who aren’t drunk college kids or blue-collar workers on lunch break at a place like Beto’s, and while the guy who wrote this seems to fit in, I don’t think the lady in question does. Beto’s and refined do not mix.

What can we take from this missed connection? Women, do not dress up and eat at seedy taco shops alone, or you might become stalker bait. In fact, just skip the seedy taco shops altogether. Your stomach will thank you later.

Girl in black hyundai – m4w – 19

You were driving in your black hyundai today on Alafaya. I thought you were really cute. I said some things to you on my PA and it made you smile.

Message me back if this is you., Long shot, I know :]

So cops use this too? Seriously, the only folks I see with PAs on Alafaya (that’s near UCF) are the half dozen State Troopers and Oviedo city cops that roam the area in search of college students to ticket. Or perhaps this guy had just finished a protest rally, or had a PA for ironic reasons?

Stuning deaf woman with dog at Playalinda – m4w – 43 (Playalinda Beach)

As I sat next to you on the beach with my female friend, you aroused me with your long, beautiful fingers as they signed to your partner. Your beautiful face, breast and figure were a sight to behold. I hope to someday see them again.

If you are interested, or if your partner is open, I would love to get together. The girl that I was with is very open, and also thought you were attractive. She tried to speak with you as you left, yet sadly, you were unable to hear.

Please, please be a joke! I really don’t want to believe that there are 43 year old swingers with bad grammar turned on by deaf women using sign language in this world. Wait. Actually, that’s probably the average poster on Missed Connections. Never mind.

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