Alternative navigational systems aren't exactly new, but the concept shown here just might have wings. HAPMAP was one of a handful of projects selected for demonstration at SIGGRAPH's E-tech event, aiming to keep a human's eye away from the map (and in turn, on whatever's in front of them) by developing a system that guides via haptics. With a handheld device capable of both navigating and vibrating, the interface indicates complex navigation cues that follow the curvature of a road or path -- it's far more detailed than the typical "go straight," and there's also opportunity here to provide handicapped individuals with a method for getting to previously inaccessible locales. By mimicking the operation and interface of sliding handrails (as well as using motion capture cameras), it's particularly useful for the visually impaired, who need these subtle cues to successfully navigate a winding path. Hop on past the break for a couple of demonstration vids.
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HAPMAP navigational system demo at SIGGRAPH 2011