HEAD UP EV­ERY­THING. THIS IS THE FU­TURE.

InCar Entertainment  - - AUDITION -

Not that I like talk­ing about age, but over my many years of re­view­ing elec­tronic equip­ment hith­erto, the vast bulk of it has been pri­mar­ily straight­for­ward au­dio­vi­sual gear — the likes of re­ceivers, am­pli­fiers and speak­ers. But ev­ery so of­ten fate sends me some­thing that de­parts from this norm. Which is al­ways in­ter­est­ing, though sel­dom earth-shat­ter­ing. It is a rar­ity in­deed when a new de­sign lands on my desk which is not only prac­ti­cal but bor­ders on down­right in­ge­nious. Well, friends, we have one such right here — Navdy’s NVD100-EN in­ter­ac­tive dis­play mo­d­ule. It is en­gi­neer­ing acu­men per­son­i­fied.

In brief, then, the Navdy NVD100-EN is an in­ter­ac­tive in­for­ma­tion sys­tem which is cen­tred on a head-up dis­play mo­d­ule — i.e. the dis­play is pro­jected onto the wind­screen so you can keep your ‘head up’, rather than peer­ing down at the dash. You’ll most likely have seen this in op­er­a­tion in up­mar­ket (of­ten very up­mar­ket ve­hi­cles, and for nav­i­ga­tion in par­tic­u­lar it al­lows for safe and easy read­ing of the maps.

But the Navdy sys­tem goes much fur­ther, branch­ing out to en­com­pass ev­ery­thing from mu­si­cal and tele­phonic du­ties through to var­i­ous el­e­ments of the host car’s in­for­ma­tion. in­deed there’s quite a bit to get one’s head around when first tin­ker­ing with it; it’s af­ter a day or two of fa­mil­iari­sa­tion that you be­gin to ap­pre­ci­ate this lit­tle gem. So much so that I’m go­ing to boldly pro­claim that de­vices of this ilk will soon be manda­tory in all new ve­hi­cles.

Open the smartly fin­ish box and you’re pre­sented with a whole host of neatly pack­aged good­ies, all of which are con­structed from ro­bust UV and shock-re­sis­tant black poly­plas­tics. Aside from the unit it­self there are three dif­fer­ent fun­da­men­tal mount­ing sys­tems for low, mid and high dash heights, a steer­ing­wheel-mounted con­troller, var­i­ous ca­bles and ca­ble man­age­ment clips, OBD-II in­ter­face plug, cleaning tools plus mul­ti­ple quick start guides. I’m rarely en­thu­si­as­tic about quick start guides, and the re­main­ing in­struc­tional in­for­ma­tion re­sides on the Navdy web­site in the guise of mini-para­graphs and short videos. Save the trees though this may, I’d rather have a full in­struc­tion book­let right in front of me to ref­er­ence while in the car. [End moan.]

With the phys­i­cal com­po­nents in­stalled and plugged into your ODB-II port, you can then pay a quick visit to ei­ther the App Store or Google Play de­pend­ing on your op­er­at­ing

sys­tem of choice. Just be aware that when down­load­ing and in­stalling the Navdy app that it re­quires the lat­est op­er­at­ing sys­tem in­stalled on your smart­phone, so check this in ad­vance! L learnt the hard way. Then upon open­ing the app it prompts you to an­swer a few pre­lim­i­nary ques­tions be­fore run­ning through the in­stal­la­tion process, in­clud­ing the pair­ing of both the steer­ing wheel con­troller and your phone to the main com­mand mo­d­ule. From there you sim­ply nav­i­gate the sys­tem’s menus with the steer­ing-wheel con­troller, us­ing a log­i­cal com­bi­na­tion of the dial and press­ing of the but­ton for dif­fer­ent lengths of time to ac­cess and ac­ti­vate dif­fer­ent fea­tures.

GOOGLE MAP SMARTS

The nav­i­ga­tion uses Google Maps via your phone, not only nav­i­gat­ing hope­fully seam­lessly and safely to your des­ti­na­tion but also pro­vid­ing all the abil­i­ties in­trin­sic to Google Maps, from the ex­haus­tive points-of-in­ter­est data­base through to of­fer­ing cur­rent traf­fic and weather-re­lated in­for­ma­tion in ad­di­tion to the ba­sics such as time, date and com­pass di­rec­tion. Much of this can be searched via the steer­ing wheel con­troller. The sys­tem can reroute based on cri­te­ria such as traf­fic con­ges­tion, and the longer you use it the more it learns about you, mean­ing that it can an­tic­i­pate your needs to make help­ful time-sav­ing sug­ges­tions based on your habits and cal­en­dar events. In­cred­i­ble ac­cu­racy is main­tained thanks to the fact the GPS chip and an­tenna have a clear line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion with satel­lites over­head as they re­side within the main body of the head-up dis­play, which by now is hope­fully re­sid­ing upon your dash­top. The ad­di­tional re­source of your phone’s fa­cil­i­ties, ad­vanced sen­sors, ac­celerom­e­ter and gy­rom­e­ter all work in har­mony to pro­vide the sys­tem with pin­point in­for­ma­tion per­tain­ing to the car’s where­abouts. If the cov­er­age drops out, in a tun­nel for ex­am­ple, the unit does a good job of keep­ing you on course with off­line maps.

SWIPE THEM AWAY

Stay­ing with the tele­phony-re­lated func­tion­al­ity for a mo­ment, when a phone call comes in, the unit dis­plays (head up) all avail­able in­for­ma­tion about that in­di­vid­ual, in­clud­ing a photo of the caller if you have such in­for­ma­tion stored on your de­vice. You can then opt to ac­cept or de­cline the phone call sim­ply by swip­ing your hand in the air be­fore the head-up dis­play. The unit is quite smart in this re­gard, too — well ca­pa­ble of recog­nis­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween a gen­uine hand swipe and the move­ments of nor­mal every­day driv­ing.

Much of the over­all func­tion­al­ity can be in­ter­acted with via spo­ken in­struc­tion too. With the rad­i­cal im­prove­ments made in speech recog­ni­tion re­cently, there is lit­tle ex­cuse for not in­cor­po­rat­ing such a po­ten­tial safety bonus in qual­ity kit th­ese days..

The im­age pro­jected by the head-up dis­play is de­serv­ing of a spe­cial men­tion sim­ply be­cause it’s a poster child for what a head-up dis­play ought to be to­day. Head-up dis­plays (HUDs for short) evolved from the pre-World War II re­flec­tor sights, a par­al­laxfree op­ti­cal sys­tem in mil­i­tary air­craft which, in con­junc­tion with the gyro gun­sight, could of­fer up ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion (such as pre­dic­tive move­ments of the in­tended tar­get) based on speed, turn rates and pre­dicted bul­let tra­jec­to­ries — thus al­low­ing you to ‘point and shoot’ as the term be­came known. Pro­ject­ing in­for­ma­tion be­fore the pi­lot in a three-di­men­sional con­fig­u­ra­tion gave a scope of depth in ad­di­tion to width and height.

And this is where the Navdy is su­pe­rior to much of the com­pe­ti­tion. While the HUD con­cept is noth­ing new, most on the mar­ket to­day (in­clud­ing many OEM ones) are sim­ply two-di­men­sional pro­jec­tors dis­play­ing in­for­ma­tion on the wind­screen with a flat monochro­matic ap­pear­ance. This of­ten suf­fers from translu­cent ghost­ing where there’s an ever-present back­ground tinge to the in­for­ma­tion zone, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to read in cer­tain lights. The Navdy de­liv­ers a vivid, full-colour three-di­men­sional im­age when dis­play­ing nav­i­ga­tion maps and other an­cil­lary in­for­ma­tion, even fa­cial fea­tures, and all on a vir­tu­ally trans­par­ent back­ground. Not only does this gen­er­ate a su­pe­rior depth per­cep­tion to what might oth­er­wise be bland in­for­ma­tion, it’s also crys­tal clear, with zero anti-alias­ing is­sues.

This is also con­ducive to fewer headaches, as your eyes don’t have to strain to recog­nise in­for­ma­tion — which might not sound overly im­por­tant short-term, but once you’ve spent a day nav­i­gat­ing around the com­plex back lanes of Syd­ney in bright sun­light, ar­riv­ing home mi­nus a mi­graine is a big bonus.

Speak­ing of bright sun­light, the dis­play ad­justs bright­ness to match the en­vi­ron­ment au­to­mat­i­cally, rang­ing from dim­ming down at night to be­ing ap­prox­i­mately 40 times brighter than your av­er­age smart­phone dur­ing peak bright­ness pe­ri­ods, like high noon.

MULTI-TASKER

Fi­nally, there is the ve­hi­cle in­for­ma­tion link. Be­sides ob­tain­ing power from the ODB-II con­nec­tion the Navdy can also com­mu­ni­cate with nearly all mod­ern cars to of­fer up such in­for­ma­tion as tachome­ter, speedome­ter, fuel con­sump­tion and the like, in ad­di­tion to alert­ing to you when the car needs fuel. Ba­si­cally, when you ini­tially set up the app on your phone, you tell it what make, model and year your car is. The Navdy will thence­forth con­fig­ure it­self to com­mu­ni­cate with your car, dis­play­ing all avail­able in­for­ma­tion be­fore you. It’s a proac­tive sys­tem too, whereby if there’s an is­sue such as be­ing low on petrol, the Navdy will au­to­mat­i­cally cal­cu­late the short­est route to your pre­ferred petrol sta­tion to fill up. Friendly!

If you drive your car once a month, this may all be an un­nec­es­sary lux­ury. How­ever, if you’re like me and spend more time in your car than any­where else, the Navdy rapidly be­comes a ne­ces­sity. Even if you reckon you sdon’t spend much time peer­ing down at the bin­na­cle, with this unit in­stalled, that dis­trac­tion is en­tirely re­moved. It’s not only safer, it’s down­right fun.

Even set­ting all that aside, the great­est ge­nius of this de­vice is that it’s en­tirely portable. If you’re alight­ing from your daily driver to head down the coast in your week­end rocket ship, you sim­ply un­plug it from your ODB-II port, move it across to the new ve­hi­cle and let your app know. Tell me, is that not the most prac­ti­cal piece of incar tech­nol­ogy you’ve wit­nessed in some time?

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