Was just checking out Navdy’s nicely done video. The product apparently nestles smoothly into a real user problems, and demonstrates how they can be solved rather well… but to me this is still just well made, and rather naive, design fiction. (Ironically, the video title is super accurate in that sense.) I am fascinated by how new technologies are spawning a generation of products never seen before, those that straddle the line between fantasy prototypes and real world solutions.
Why am I so skeptical of Navdy? Well, there’s the question of speed. I simply find it hard believe that the pace of (cognitive, not physical) interaction required with the heads-up display will be consistent across the varying speeds at which the car is bound to move. The latter, of course, affects attention span and decision-making, reaction time hugely.
So, that call from Mum - if the dude was going at 80 miles an hour trying to change lanes on a packed multi-lane highway - he’d wish it had a gesture for a “no fucking way right now” instant message to her.
Also, the whole super confidently intoned “airline pilots use it, it’s safe” spiel .. airline pilots don’t need to watch out for that kid rollerblading out from a side street while you are racking your head about where the next ideal parking lot is going to be, while your girlfriend is stressing about that upcoming interview. No, this isn’t the airline pilot’s de facto state while flying; it happens all the time to urban car drivers, however.
In more designerly parlance, it’s not clear what kinds of cognitive tradeoffs and potential collateral damage in interaction such a new affordance will create for users (and the affordance I am talking about is not just the gestural one offered by the Navdy interface, but the new hybrid combination of that plus the steering wheel and dashboard controls the car already has.)
But I didn’t prototype the thing, I haven’t used the thing. And I haven’t user tested the thing. So I’m not in a position to write off Navdy as a deal breaker, not at all. I’m just saying it looks more like a charming first version that some people, maybe quite a few people, are going to want to try. But after that, Navdy might have to evolve a few new avatars to stay relevant and in business.