Mobile Technology

Navman iCN 750 - the world's first image-based navigation device

Navman iCN 750 - the world's first image-based navigation device
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April 4, 2006 Navman announced a new addition to its line of in-vehicle navigation devices yesterday that combines GPS, internet functionality and digital imaging technologies by using photos to assist users to “intuitively navigate” to their destination. The idea is to select a picture of your desired destination from the iCN 750’s image library and the NavPix software will determine the best route to travel without requiring the entry of any address detail. The iCN 750 has a 1.3 megapixel digital camera built in, and is clearly designed to overcome the most tedious part of any navigational device (entering the address), enabling any location (restaurant, scenic view, business destination, house for sale) to become a geo-referenced digital image at the press of a button. The iCN 750's high-res 4" WQVGA (480x272) widescreen display also offers a 3D view of the programmed route and there’s a set of automotive trip computer functions (ETA, speed, distance etc) that have been added, plus the ability to download a database of speed camera locations just prior to the trip.

Apart from “one-touch navigation”, the iCN 750 also enables users to share favourite destinations from their personal NavPix library with friends. Navman has also developed a new website where users can download “interesting new destinations to expand their own personal NavPix library.” Now we haven’t seen or played with this device but we’re not convinced on this aspect. The press release reads “whether destinations are work related or for pleasure, planned or spontaneous, NavPix delivers the power to explore like never before.” Downloading and sharing addresses whether they are disguised as geo-referenced pictures or not, does not sound like our idea of fun and adventure. We can think of some uses for this functionality, perhaps for realty agents or people sightseeing in a foreign city, but just can’t see it as a killer app for the general population.

We all know that we remember images better than we remember addresses, but the fact is that if you want to get anywhere with your iCN 750 the first time, you’ll need to either key in the address or find the address on Navman’s web site and download someone else’s geo-referenced image. If you think keying in an address is inconvenient, we reckon the latter would make a good definition for impossible.

Other advanced features of the iCN 750 include enhanced routing algorithms ensuring users travel the most intuitive course; improved speed and accuracy for town, zip code, street, intersection and house number searches; an extensive Points- of-Interest (POI) database; and two dedicated POI buttons that provide instant access to the location of nearby gas stations or parking lots. In the event of skirting traffic jams or accidents or the inevitable missed turns, Navman's "Back-on-Track" feature redirects users to their destination using the nearest viable route.

The pocketsized iCN 750 has a rechargeable internal battery that eliminates the need for external power during operation; a high-quality speaker that delivers turn-by-turn instructions and offers a choice of male or female voices in nine different languages; and a SiRFstarIII Generation 2 chipset which greatly improves reception in environments with weak signals such as areas surrounded by high buildings, dense foliage or indoors (depending on the building's construction). In addition, the low power consumption of the new GPS chipset ensures maximum battery life.

The Navman iCN 750 comes with a vehicle mounting bracket, vehicle power adapter, AC power adapter, USB cable, wireless remote control and padded carrying case.

Navman's iCN 750 will be available in early May at US$800 but it must be said that we don’t understand this new creature and its hybrid functionality as everything seems like a disagreeable compromise. Let’s face it, most mobile phones have better than a 1.3 megapixel camera in them and navigation with a phone is now possible – and if the iCN 750 wants to go head to head with the phone as a relevant convergent device, we think it will come off second best. Our mind is open, but at first glance this looks like a flawed concept.

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