Haptic PND research could let your steering wheel turn you

New haptic PND research could result in steering wheels that physically pull at your hands according to pre-programmed routes, or canes for the sight-impared that could help users navigate by touch.  The University of Utah study, led by mechanical engineer assistant professor William Provancher, attempts to bypass the already overloaded senses of sight and sound by instead using touch: in the prototype, users rest their index-fingers on IBM TrackPoint nubbins which then slightly pull the fingertip in the direction the GPS system wants them to turn.

Driving accuracy – measured in successful lane-changes – was then measured across various scenarios, comparing touch and verbal directions when also trying to hold a conversation on the phone.  Although there was no difference between touch and audio prompts when not simultaneously on a call, that changed significantly when the subjects also had to hold a phone conversation.  However, the researchers say this shouldn't be seen as a workaround to allow cellphone use while driving.

The team are apparently already in talks with three car manufacturers and an OEM producer, and says that if commercially adopted we could see haptic guidance systems integrated into steering wheels within the next three to five years.  Meanwhile they're also investigating using the skin-stretch system as an alternative to traditional vibration haptics in PMPs, smartphones and other devices.

[via cellular-news]