Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about consumer technology.
When considering the great technology advances of the past few decades, GPS tends to get short shrift compared to such culture-rocking innovations as the internet and cellular networks. But it is a marvel nonetheless. Just a few generations ago, the idea of hopping in a car with no clue how to get to a particular destination was foolishness (or at least fodder for gender-stereotyping comedians). Today, with an inexpensive device or smartphone software, we can do so with near certainty of finding our way.
Developers of navigation apps and hardware must place great care in creating an experience that doesn't unnecessarily distract the driver. For example, quite a few involve "lane assist" features that starkly indicate the options when coming to a fork in the road so that the driver avoids having to stare at the screen too long to figure out the right path. In addition, spoken instructions have long been a defining commodity. While Telenav
, for example, offers a free version of its navigation app, it doesn't include such audio. And Nokia recently followed suit with its distribution strategy around Nokia Drive
, leaving the version with spoken turn-by-turn directions exclusive to its Windows Phones.