HEAD UP EVERYTHING. THIS IS THE FUTURE.
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.
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?