Anyone who’s walked down the street using their smartphone for navigation will know that it’s not an ideal solution. While the service itself is invaluable, the need to constantly keep glancing down at the display to check you’re heading in the correct direction can be more than a little tedious. NTT Domoco’s Yubi Navi is a prototype device that looks to simplify on-foot navigation, replacing visual, on-screen prompts with subtle, tactile cues.

Yubi Navi simply translates to Finger Navigation, and that’s actually a pretty good description of what it does. The user holds the baton-like device, similar in form to a flexible Nintendo Wii remote, in the the hand and places a thumb on the top. To indicate a left or right turn, the Yubi Navi will vibrate slightly before twisting in the desired direction. If the user needs to stop or start moving, the device will press out slightly into the palm of the hand.

The unit can also be used for non-visual, non-verbal communication between two users. If one user squeezes on their Navi, then the second person’s device will press onto the palm of their hand, somewhat crudely simulating the sensation of holding hands.

The Yubi Navi is still in the prototype stage, meaning that you will have to wait if this kind of navigation sounds appealing. There are still significant questions surrounding the device, most notably how accurate it would actually prove to be in real life situations, and which devices and services it would be able to link up with.

On a conceptual level, Docomo’s prototype does have some interesting use scenarios. Not only would the device be potentially useful when navigating difficult areas such as crowded sports arenas and theme parks, but could also help blind people to navigate more effectively. The technology could, for example, be extremely effective if it were to be adapted and integrated into canes and walking sticks.

Source: NTT Docomo

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