back to article Line up for full-windscreen satnav

Safe, simple and intuitive is the umbrella promise of a new form of satnav, which replaces the traditional PDA-sized display and matron-like voiceover with a full-size heads-up display on your windscreen. display_line Making Virtual Solid's Virtual Cable: your route's the red line Virtual Cable has been developed by the US …


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  1. Wonderkid
    Thumb Up

    Brilliant idea - like augmented reality...

    This is the kind of paradigm shift that could destroy an industry - and create another. If companies like Tom Tom, Navman or Garmin don't buy these guys up soon, the box based GPS units will be toast. The HUD idea could extend to the display of other vehicular telemetry data such as speed/speed limits, non distracting advertising - "10% off petrol where you see the flashing red star" and with gesture control (airborne multi-touch), full control over your entertainment system. Or even removing talkative passengers: Swipe upwards to activate ejector seat...

  2. Waggers


    Let's hope it works reliably, or else "Blue Screen of Death" could suddenly take on a whole new (and literal) meaning

  3. Mr Chris

    Is map reading a lost art now?

    We have a cheaper, more environmentally- and user-friendly alternative to satnav - learn to read a f*cking map, you twits.

  4. Steve

    You gotta love....

    ...that projection screen and actuator! It should also play music when I plug my Ipod into it - it would have the bonus of giving a cool visual effect in time with the beat of the music!

  5. Pete mcQuail

    Just remember

    that the diversion major roadworks outside (insert your favorite hold up) may not have actually made it to the on car database.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When were the patents applied for?

    I seem to recall someone here suggesting satnav could draw the borders of the road on a head up display. So drivers could see the road ahead at night, or round bends.

  7. andrew checkley
    Thumb Down

    How much?

    100 quid? i very much dobt it!

  8. kashif

    Wait until they have ironed out the wrinkles

    GPS-"U-turn at the next opportunity"

    Tech Freak-"Arghh my eyes"

  9. Christoph


    It looks as if it could be very dangerous. It's too easy to follow, and too easy to ignore the actual road.

    After some time driving, you'll just be watching that line, and may not watch e.g. the kerb for people running out.

    We already have cases of lorries blindly following satnav down tiny lanes, this would probably make that worse.

    And what happens when the line is a few feet out of position? Again after a while you may be just blindly following the line, even if it swerves onto the kerb or onto the wrong side of the road.

  10. mike wardle

    Blue screen

    I cant wait for the first 'crash', will give the 'blue screen of death' a whole new meaning.

  11. Karl Lattimer

    horrific english

    I can't even read this

    "Virtual Cable then uses the routeplan the gadget comes up with to display the red line"

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Patent panding?

    I've seen these systems in computer games for ages!

  13. Dan
    Paris Hilton

    £100 cost

    That will be a £1.5k option then.

    Paris because she, like a satnav, has been round the block a few times...

  14. spezzer

    seems nice but...

    ...will the graphics actually be as nice as the ilustration? my guess it will be a flickering collection of straighlines - ive yet to see any computer simulation do nice curves!

  15. Anonymous Coward


    They've been doing this stuff in jet fighters for years, so I can't wait until I have a full tactical display in my car, analysing everything around me!

  16. Dave

    I agree, get a map

    Yet I have gps in my phone...I never use it, though. I load up Google maps and look at the route, then go and drive it. It's not hard. GPS is for when you are going a thousand miles away or something, not to go to the store for a loaf of bread.

    spezzer, It's a laser, it's all curves.

  17. Mike
    Thumb Up

    Should be expanded to do more

    Have long thought the idea of a HUD in a car would be a great advance - I think even a well-known three-lettered german car manufacturer has incorporated it into one of their higher-end cars in recent years.

    It would make a lot of sense to put all essential car information up on screen where the driver can see it: Speed, RPM, warning indicators (low fuel, oil warning, brake warning), engine temp, mileage - basically reproduce the dashboard essential instruments to a position where they can be unobtrusively seen by the driver. The dash instruments can be kept as a back up in case the HUD fails, but this way the driver can keep eyes on the road/rear mirror for more of the time.

    A bit trekkie, but a voice control system would be a good idea too, so that the driver only has to say an instruction to the car for some of the less crucial but distracting activities (changing radio station or switching the AC on or off, for example)

    Aircraft designers realised this years ago for FJ pilots - I'd think the tech must be getting cheap enough to put into the average saloon car by now.

  18. David Evans


    If this was allied to the moronic satnav in my Audi, I'd follow that red line the wrong way up a one-way street and into an oncoming bus in about the first mile. Garbage in, (dangerous) garbage out.

  19. Mark

    "paradigm shift"

    "This is the kind of paradigm shift " is a terrible way to start a sentence. It isn't even true. It's basically a HUD taken to the car, taking advantage that there's no need for pinpoint accuracy. The BMW had an on-windscreen speedometer for years, so even that part isn't new.

    What is a little new is that they think they can make "HUD contact lenses".

  20. Jonn

    Still need your trusty hand held though

    Remember it states that you still need your existing Sat Nav system so it's unlikely to worry the likes of Garmin, TomTOm, etc. It isn't a sat nav system itself, just a fancy display.

  21. Eric


    Oddly, GM has had HUD technology for years (my friends Pontiac has it), but it's never really caught on for some reason. One problem with his car's system is the windshield has to have a special coating, making it damn expensive to replace if it cracks. I wonder if they've gotten around this somehow?

  22. Jon

    Isn't GPS offline for a purpose

    So if GPS is made to be up to X meters out depending where you are this could make turning left or right very interesting. I wouldnt want to live on the corner of a road and have people landing on my driveway!

    You could just imagine what a not up to date map could do to a mini roundabout/pedestrian crossing/traffic lights/cross roads. It would provide hours of You Tube style entertainment.

    And all of that because people wont buy a map for £9.99 in BP including a free torch or cup.

  23. Law
    Paris Hilton


    I would get very annoyed if I was a truck driver and kept getting blinded by red lasers aimed at my cabin! lol.... what happens when the car gets a little dusty??

    It will be interesting to see how this works! lol

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Is map reading a lost art now?

    Map reading by the driver of a moving vehicle is inherently unsafe, and ought to be banned in the same way as mobile phones have been. Before satnavs there may have been a legitimate need to be able to allow it, but that is no longer the case.

    I guess satnavs with little screens will also go too, eventually, when screen projection devices become sufficiently economical and widespread -- but for the moment, using a satnav which gives instructions mainly by voice is highly preferable than trying to read a map on the passenger seat and/or trying to find safe places to stop and read.

  25. Chris Redpath

    better off just indicating direction

    Drawing a line like the illustration is bound to distract drivers. It would be far better to just display an indication of what action is required at the next junction and an estimated distance. It doesn't even need to be textual information - just a shrinking line or something.

    Much like a TomTom does when you've got it set not to display the maps (for safety reasons - does anyone ever use that setting?)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How on earth

    will this fit in my motorcycle helmet?

    Guess standard GPS "boxes" aren't so dead after all.

    But I would consider this for my car, so long as I still had the traditional display to refer to. The idea of highlighting road edges at night on some form of head-up display is also nice, but unless you are 100% accurate, and the highlight doesnt obscure some small obstacle in the road, I would be rather hesitant to use this.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    "Non-Distracting Advertising?"

    Wanna bet you'll have dancing aliens next to gas stations that have paid for them?

    In typical fashion, the ads will get more and more distracting in order to compete with each other.

    Can you imagine driving down the Vegas Strip with this system?

  28. Mr Chris

    @AC 15:02GMT

    One should be able to look at the map before leaving the house, and memorise the route. At most, one should only need to stop to review the route for the last couple of miles. Stopping to read a map is hardly unsafe.

    You have been brainwashed by the consumer-goods-pushers, young man.

  29. Lou Gosselin

    Some questions

    Not completely novel, but I'd be a fan if it worked well.

    Some questions though:

    1. Would the projection need to be calibrated to the driver?

    By shifting position, won't the image become mis-aligned? The image would be completely distorted for the other passengers.

    2. The "screen shot" looks good, but in the real world, won't the virtual line overlap physicial objects that ought to be occluding it. (the line should disappear around a bridge or corner).

    As someone else posted, perhaps this would be more useful as just a direction/distance indicator without attempting to paint into the scene.

  30. Mark

    Re: Should be expanded to do more

    A voice activated system? Here's the obligatory Futurama quote:

    "Trees up?"



  31. TS

    Paper maps are always too regional

    The problem with a map is that you never have the area that you need in detail. When you get lost, it's usually in an unexpected place, due to traffic or construction detours. I rarely get lost since I have an uncanny sense of direction (which really annoys my GF), but when I do, the maps are useless because I'm on some local street that doesn't show up on the maps.

    In the backcountry, I love 7.5 minute maps. Drop me anywhere with a compass and I can locate myself. But while behind the wheel, the GPS navigation is much more convenient as well as safer to operate.

  32. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Nice idea but...

    It looks nice, but in reality the heads up display will lag behind. Almost all GPS chipsets I've used have had a 1 second refresh rate, your car can rotate quite a lot in one second and this renders the heads up display useless.

  33. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton

    Hmmm ,

    Hmmm , I can just see the Highway Patrol Officer cleaning up after a Chevy Suburban SUV T boning a Toyota Prius at an intersection as the offending driver says "but Officer my heads up satellite navigation system told me to turn now! "

  34. Cameron Colley

    RE: Is map reading a lost art now?

    Map reading is all well and good until you think you're on the correct road and you're not. You may be able to navigate a pre-remembered route perfectly but if you're in an unfamiliar vehicle on unfamiliar roads, it can be easy to become lost. Once lost, a map can be next to useless as, even when you can work out where you are it's still not always apparent how to get back to where you want to go.

    I have always been able to use maps when walking and cycling on the trail, but on roads I've had to resort to asking directions on a few occasions, simply because unfamiliar roads with strange junctions can be very difficult to navigate.

  35. Anonymous Coward

    @ Mr Chris, Jon, assorted other Luddites

    Why the obsession with paper maps? For people who travel a lot to different cities, regions and countries GPS systems are a godsend. A map might be £9.99, but you've got to buy one for each city/area, you can't memorise everything, and it doesn't tell you about bad traffic, diversions, etc.

    Are you similarly scathing about people who use computers to write letters? I mean, what's wrong with pen and paper? Or a quill and parchment for that matter?

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @Mr Chris

    Unless you hand-wrote your luddite diatribes and sent them to El Reg in the post, I suggest that you reconsider your obvious hypocrisy.

    You have been brainwashed by computing-consumer-goods-pushers, young man. What has the world come to when we no longer know how to communicate our views to publications via hand-written missives, carefully curled in florid script and sealed with wax?


  37. Keith Langmead

    Helmet visors & map reading

    Look forward to the day when I get something like this fitted in my helmet displaying on the visor!

    Personally, yes I'm perfectly able to read a map, but in reality that doens't always help with some routes. It's fine when you're going somewhere near to a major junction, but when you're going somewhere in the middle a large city it becomes a problem. There's no way I can memorise that many turns, junctions and roundabouts accurately, and of course map reading on a bike, even when stationary is fiddly due to gloves and the map being in a bag! I tend to have a single headphone in my ear under my helmet, connected to my GPS enabled phone in my pocket so I can hear the directions as I ride, but it's far from ideal.

  38. Iain Gilbert

    @Mr Chris / HUDs

    Have you every tried to read a map while driving? Try it too many times and you'll either end up with points from the boys in blue or wrapped round a Polish lorry!

    I have a cheapo gps which does me just fine when I'm going somewhere unfamiliar however sometimes it's wrong which is the reason I still carry maps for the places I go most (A-Zs etc) and a full UK map.

    To answer your question yes I can read a road map, growing up reading OS maps (my parents are climbers/hikers) makes reading road maps a synch.

    HUDs are already a feature on certain BMWs etc eg M5. But I always wonder about this type of tech whether it could ever block the drivers view, I can just see it "Sorry M'lud I crashed into the copshop because my satnav BSOD'd all over my windscreen".

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Not new

    I suggested a similar concept to others while day dreaming a few years back and was met with a barrage of (in typically british fashion) "Someone already tried that in *some decade pre thatcher* fitted to an austin teacosy, test driver ended up trapped in Scunthorpe, might still be drivin round now", "wouldnt work", "no one would use it", "waste of time day dreaming, go get a proper job like the rest of us" etc. Plus getting any sort of help or feedback from anyone was like pulling teeth, even asking people in the know about anything similar that had been tried would be met with either a shrug of the shoulders or a look which indicated their knowledge was "top secret" and not to be shared with those outside their hallowed company / university.

    People wonder why Britain fell behind America? Too much of "stuff like

    that isn't for the likes of us, that's for rich people" or "We don't believe your idea has merit, come back with something tried and a fast food franchise....oh wait....your not already rich....well you have no chance"

    Too many people in the UK believe that working for someone is much more "proper" than getting off your backside and trying your business...then there are those who go out of their way to sabotage others ideas to "bring them down a peg or 2" and "put them back in their place" and lastly "remind them where they came from so their head will come out of the clouds and back to real life" *rolls eyes*

    At least the Asian communities tend to back each other up and support each other in their attempts to better themselves and their community which is more than I can say for the majority of us indigenous Brits...

    Mine is the flame retardent jacket with the plane ticket in the pocket

  40. Mr Chris

    @ various (defensive satnav owners?)


    "Unless you hand-wrote your luddite diatribes and sent them to El Reg in the post, I suggest that you reconsider your obvious hypocrisy."

    The fact that you think the two things are even remotely comparable is quite funny. But in a sad way.

    @Mr Gilbert

    "Have you every tried to read a map while driving? Try it too many times and you'll either end up with points from the boys in blue or wrapped round a Polish lorry!"

    You'll note I suggested *pulling over* to check the map if it became necessary.

    @ Cameron Colley, AC 18:42

    You raise a good point there, actually, in that for someone who does a lot of travelling (for their job, for example) a GPS would actually be useful - in a city to city drive it's the last section that tends to be troublesome, and unfamiliar inner city roads can be nightmarish (try driving round South London and the lack of road signs is quite shocking).

    What irks me is the way that every single bugger on the road seems to have felt the needto go and buy a GPS - when clearly the majority of the driving that most of these people undertake is around already-familiar areas. And if you are dirivng to a bit of Cheltenham you've not been to before, you can just check on your local map where it is, and then next time you'll know.

    It's like those bluetooth headsets - I'm sure a vanishingly small percentage of the population really *do* need to be constantly hands free in case an important call comes in and at that exact moment they need their hands free for removing the bullet from a small child, but those twats walking round Asda with their little earpieces in? I think not.

    Triumphs of marketing over common sense.

  41. Gordon Edge


    I have had Sat Nav on my BMW HuD for three years now. (Also includes speed and warnings). Brilliant safety feature - also great if you wear glasses as HuD focus coincides with normal driving view.

  42. Gildas

    Paper maps

    have one edge, they don't crash. A mate recently got lost driving from Watford to Chichester because his Tom-Tom went arse up in a car park in Watford. Did he have a road map? No. Did he end up going the wrong way around the M25? Yes. A 30 sec glance at an even half decent map would have shown him the twit proof way between those two locations and indicated that he needed to follow the Heathrow signs from the M1/M25 jct.

    Sat Nav is great in unfamiliar urban areas but on the open road you really should know where you are going and how you get there rather than depending on a sat nav box to point out the bleedin' obvious.

  43. Stu

    Google Maps StreetView

    Has anybody noticed the similarities with this and google StreetView graphics?,-122.407951&spn=0.042442,0.062742&z=14&om=0&layer=c&cbll=37.807922,-122.409036&cbp=1,161.95591559026255,,0,0.2789450686750232

    Go to this linky, then move forward and prepare for a magical trip thru what looks like a car park.

    So I suppose this laser thing will be guiding us to drive thru brick walls or whole buildings too then?


  44. Scott Stevens
    Thumb Up

    Buick already had HUD display on speedometer. You just need to place the GPS screen

    You just need to place the GPS screen in a "black, recessed hole in the dash and you can easily read whatever in on the screen on the windshield. Add ons are great for those of us who already have a car we want to update.

  45. BitTwister

    @Mr Chris

    > learn to read a f*cking map, you twits.

    And presumably also learn how to pluck feathers from swans so accounts can be written up in ink on parchment, instead of using a spreadsheet.

    I can map read perfectly well but not while driving, for obvious reasons, and having a SatNav chatting (or projecting) at me instead is very useful. Rather like how a spreadsheet is very useful for doing accounts - but neither is a substitute for an understanding the basic principles.

  46. Steve P

    Sunny days?

    Will it be much use on a sunny day? Or when you're driving into the sunrise or sunset?

    It seems to me that anything that you need to put the visor down for is going to render it pretty useless.

    Be cool if it works though.

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