A group of students from the Netherlands is working on a development that combines existing GPS data and the music on a mobile device to steer you towards your destination without onscreen arrows or voice commands.
The four User System Interaction trainees from Eindhoven University of Technology have designed their variation of a GPS navigation system in combination with a small portable computer, in this case an Android-based smart phone, along with a pair of headphones to help cyclists navigate without distraction from the road ahead.
The system named 'Oh Music Where Art Thou?' relies on the human brain's ability to detect tiny differences in audio balance between the left and right ears and the students have worked on artificially altering the perceived direction of this stereo image audio to guide the user to a predefined location.
"At the moment the prototype only works for predetermined locations," the team's Daniel Tetteroo told the technology website Gizmag. "However, we are busy developing it into a full application that supports navigation to basically any place in the world. The finished application will be available soon through the Android market. Some of us have already used the limited application in real life and we're very enthusiastic about the concept. It's not just that it is an intuitive and easy way to navigate; it also has a certain fun-factor to it. More adventurous than just following direct instructions which turns to take, as you can just choose directions yourself, and still end up at your final destination."
At road.cc we're aware that the cycling world is strongly divided on the issue of music-on-the-move, many arguing with some justification that environmental sound is not only a large part of the pleasure of cycling but also a potential life-saver amongst the hurly burly of city traffic or even (especially!) out in the lanes. We've been carrying out our own experiments with an app called Awareness! which uses, in our case, an iPhone's microphone to detect sounds above a predetermined level to mix in the potentially useful sound of an approching car, say, while reducing the music level. It seems to us the combination of the two apps might eventually be interesting, not least when they work on the same platform.