EzNav: An Augmented Navigation Platform
Introduction: Inspired by a Journey to Santiago
Before I started my school, I did one of the most amazing travels ever in my life: El Camino de Santiago, the ancient pilgrimage route over 770km from French-Spanish boarder to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Today, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims set out each year from their front doorsteps or from popular starting points across Europe, to make their way to Santiago de Compostela. Most travel by foot, some by bicycle, and a few by horseback or by donkey! I just walked the route simply for the challenge and a piece of hope for ‘spiritual adventure’. I couldn’t find a path of spiritual enlightenment, however, I found the most brilliant and intuitive navigation system coming from the medieval era.
When starting my pilgrimage, I was worried about getting lost in the middle of nowhere. It was a long journey in a foreign land and I couldn’t use cellular data outside the town. Surprisingly however, I didn’t get lost during the entire hiking; all I did was just following the yellow arrows marked on roads, walls, telephone poles and signs. When there were no arrows, then other hikers went ahead marked arrows with sticks and stones. These yellow arrows, starting from small town in France, led me the way during the entire 770km and I had no problem finding a way. It was the most pristine but so intuitive navigation system I have ever seen.
After finishing the pilgrimage in Spain, I spent one more month to visit 16 European cities in 6 countries. Contrast to my experience in Spain, I saw so many backpackers including myself often get lost when trying to find their place to stay for the first time after getting off the bus/train in the middle of the new place. Although Google Maps can show them a location to their destination, it is not even easy to find a right direction at the starting point. I got a huge inspiration from both traveling experiences and decided to design a new navigation platform for travelers.
Map reading skill is imperative when exploring strange places, but those who are not used to interact with maps have a lot of problems in reading them. Especially when people figure out that where they head is not the right direction to the destination. Amy Lobben, the geographer of University of Oregon, tested hundreds of people by dropping them off in an unfamiliar part of a town. She concluded that people who are good at finding a direction tend to keep north at the top when they read a map. On the other hand, those who aren't as good tend to keep rotating the map so that the direction they're heading is always at the top. (http://www.wired.com/2013/11/map-sense/) Professional hikers find north easily, but the average people are not familiar with keep themselves north
- The accuracy of GPS goes down in small alleys, roads between tall buildings and under the bridge, for too many paths are overlapped in the same area. It is particularly painful when exploring old European towns.
- GPS drain a battery quickly. In fact, it is the second most battery consumed feature after a display. This is not favorable especially when going outside for a long time.
- Network connection is required. For those who rely on wifi in the foreign country they can’t use GPS map outside.
Creating Future for Travelers
In most case, travelers start exploring the area from the station. The first thing they have to do is finding their lodge. Then they explore the city and try to find a way to famous sites or highly ranked restaurants. Based on their pain points, needs and behaviors I have been thinking about combining ideas of “direction” based interactive navigation and location information without using GPS. For smartphones and tabs, I thought about augmented visual arrows and signs seen on camera screen. These visual signs will interact with users as they move ahead and give feedback whether they are heading the right way. I also considered interactions for smart watches; unlike phones and tabs, watches don't provide a camera. Therefore, I imagined that combining visual arrows and haptic cues in order to make directions more clear.
1) Inspired by yellow arrows on the camino, the visual signals (arrows, floor lines, signs) pop up on camera screen. Visual directions are supported on smartphones and tabs. When hurdles (cars, fences, poles etc.) are recognized ahead, warning message will be popped up and stop navigating immediately.
2) For those who use smart watch, haptic interaction will be provided. Instead of following arrows/signals, vibration signals will let users know where to make turns or stop.
Storyboard: User Scenario
Here is the scenario I thought.
- A traveler gets off at the bus stop. He needs to check in his hostel but has no idea where to go.
- He finds a kiosk installed next to the bus stop and search the name of the hostel
- The kiosk finds the navigation file of the hostel
- Using Bluetooth, he downloads the location information from the kiosk.
- As soon as download completes, the camera app is on. Based on the location of the kiosk, it calculates the distance and the direction to the destination
- Virtual arrows and messages are overlaid on the camera screen.
- He follows the arrows by scanning the street ahead of him.
- When the direction is changed, the device buzzes and notice him to make a turn.
- The camera recognizes a car ahead of him. As he getting closer to the car within 2 feet, the navigation stops all the sudden and a warning message pops up.
- As he moves away from the car, the navigation restarts.
- He finds his hostel without getting lost.
I created the second scenario about users who download navigation information through an app.
- A traveler downloads the destination information before leaving home
- He gets off the train station. He needs to check in his hostel but has no idea where to go.
- He opens the app and search the name of his hostel
- As he tab “start navigation” button, camera map is on and the virtual arrows are overlapped on the camera screen.
- He follows the arrows by scanning the street ahead of him
- The camera recognizes a car ahead of him. All the sudden the navigation stops and a warning message pops up.
- As he moves away, the navigation restarts and keep following the way
- He found his destination without getting lost.
Landing Page Design: from Lo-Fi to Hi-Fi UI
Based on the storyboards, I designed lo-fi and hi-fi landing pages for different resolutions. Whereas smartphones and tabs are considered as personal devices that provides all downloadable maps, large screens will be used for information kiosks and they will only provide local maps. Also, if users download maps from the kiosks, the camera app is on and skip the whole logging in and location search process
Using After Effects, I made a video prototype for smartphones that shows the key screen flow of EzNav.
Expansion to Service Platform
Beyond interactive navigation, I also considered it as a service platform. As mentioned, travelers want to find the location of their destination as soon as they arrived. For locals, travelers are potential customers of their restaurants, accommodation and shops, which is why they try to get good reviews and ratings from Tripadvisor. Often, however, I experienced that restaurants that local people recommend were not on Tripadvisor or Google Maps and they were too good to be missed. If local business owners register their store direction on this navigation system, it may expand as a platform for travelers.
Here is my scenario; My hostel staff recommends a nice local restaurant. I google the restaurant but I couldn’t find any information. The hostel staff registered the map information through the app and the direction is instantly updated on the system. I search the location information and find a way.