Finally, there’s a piece of wearable tech that combines the navigation technology of today with the snappy style of the past. A group of students from Cornell University have created a GPS top hat that uses directional sound cues to help users find their destination hands-free.
According to Hackaday, the hat feeds ambient audio tones into earbuds. A mix of phase shifting and amplitude make it seem like sounds are coming from a specific direction. Users simply follow the sounds, which guide them left, right, forward, or backward, until they arrive at their destination. According to the students’ study, “[the hat] does this by using the user’s current GPS coordinates, the destination’s GPS coordinates, and the user’s head orientation to produce sound through two-channel stereo headphones that can be perceived as coming from the direction of the destination.”
Of course, the sound navigation hat isn’t really a viable replacement for other GPS devices. Instead, the student project is a stylish illustration of new developments in navigational technology. Hackaday explains that the interface the students have created, which replaces visual cues with non-verbal audio cues, could one day be employed by apps to help users navigate without looking at their GPS device.
The technology, they explain, could be of particular use for the visually impaired. Instead of feeding step-by-step audio directions into an earpiece, the GPS top hat emits a constant tone, that shifts as you change direction, providing constant directional input. “The device represents a step towards a walking-friendly hands free navigation solution that allows a user’s attention to remain on their surroundings,” the study explains. “Sound localization is also more intuitive so that the user can spend less time and attention to process the instructions.”