A Heads Up on Automotive Display Applications

Automotive Displays – Navdy, a development stage startup firm, announced on August 5, 2014, that it is seeking to reinvigorate the market for aftermarket automotive heads up displays. Auto manufacturers have experimented with and offered various heads up displays in their cars. For example, General Motors introduced heads up displays in some Oldsmobile and Pontiac models in the late 1980s and 1990s. However, the fact that these GM nameplates are no longer in production cannot be blamed on their use of heads up displays.

Navdy based in San Francisco, CA, USA, was founded in Oct. 2012 by Doug Simpson and Karl Guttag. Karl Guttag is Navdy’s Chief Technical Officer, and you, like I, may know Karl Guttag from his prior efforts as a Founder and CTO of Syndiant. Karl’s work at Syndiant involved Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCOS) display devices for pico projector applications. Syndiant LCOS microdisplays have been designed into pico projector products marketed by 3M, Philips, and AAXA, and others. Given Karl’s longstanding experience with LCOS pico projector development I would expect that a similar microdisplay engine is incorporated in Navdy’s heads up display product. Karl relates the story of the founding of Navdy at his website. Karl describes how Navdy was selected in 2013 as one of 11 companies to participate in the Highway1 business incubation program sponsored by PCH International which is focused on assisting hardware device startups in particular.

Navdy 1 Source: Navdy

Navdy has provided a comprehensive list of specifications for the device although they note “Final specs subject to change.” These specifications include: 5.1" wide transparent Head-Up Display (HUD); “High quality projector,” (I could find no further details on the projector); IR camera for touchless gesture control; Accelerometer, e-compass, ambient light sensor; WiFi (802.11 b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0/LE; Audio out via Bluetooth or 3.5mm minijack; mini-USB port; Internal speaker and microphone with noise canceling DSP; Dual core processor running Android 4.4; OBD-II power and data connection to car computer, with optional 12 volt power adapter; Portable, bendable, non-marking, powered friction mount, with magnetic connection to the device; Dimensions (excluding mount): width: 130mm, depth: 140mm, height: 95mm (including display).

Navdy describes the core features of the device as:

  • Showing turn-by-turn navigation instructions in real time.
  • Displaying information about your car such as your current speed, RPM or fuel economy.
  • Safer display of text messages and other notifications from your phone.
  • Accepting and initiating calls without looking at your phone.
  • Playing, pausing, and skipping music streaming from your phone.

The firm makes the case for Navdy in the video below.

To this observer, the most appealing features and potential characteristics of the Navdy device are the combination of one handed gesture and voice recognition controls, and graceful integration with iPhones and Android smartphones that would effectively leverage smartphone apps such as Google Maps with traffic reporting for navigation. Incorporation of the OBD-II power and data connection to the car’s computer could also be an interesting asset. If Navdy’s heads up automotive display device is both easier and safer to use than juggling my smartphone to navigate and retrieve traffic reports as well as interact with the phone in other ways, Navdy may succeed in the market where other solutions have fallen short. The Navdy device is available for pre-order now at a limited time discounted price of $299 and is expected to ship in early 2015 at a retail price of $499. – Phil Wright

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