Home“I Did It My Way”: Moving Away from the Tyranny of Turn-by-Turn Pedestrian Navigation

Turn-by-turn pedestrian navigation is now widely available in mobile devices. However, we believe these increasingly-ubiquitous mobile systems can often take the fun out of exploring a place, especially when people have to listen for instructions or look at a screen rather than at their surroundings.

In this project we created a simpler method for pedestrian navigation. When using our prototypes, all the user has to do is hold their phone in their hand. In the simplest system, when they point the phone toward their destination it vibrates; when they point the wrong way it stops vibrating. No turn-by-turn information is given, though – the phone vibrates when pointing in the direction of the final target, rather than any intermediate waypoints.

To help stimulate this type of casual navigation even further, we also created a more intelligent system that tries to prompt exploration and ‘off the beaten track’ navigation. This second prototype dynamically adjusts the haptic feedback to let the user know when there are multiple path options that will still get them to their destination – we widen the vibration area when there are more choices and shrink it when there are fewer.

Of course, we're not trying to replace standard turn-by-turn navigation – there are clearly very many occasions when detailed instructions are necessary. However, we think that sometimes it’s actually quite nice not to know exactly where you are and where you're going. Lessening the impact of using these types of mobile technologies is also one of our key aims – for our system the pointing required need not be more than a casual flick of the wrist, and is intended to be done eyes-free.

In the paper and video below we present the background, motivation, design and evaluation of this simpler type of pedestrian navigation.


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S. Robinson, M. Jones, P. Eslambolchilar, R. Murray-Smith, M. Lindborg. "I Did It My Way": Moving Away from the Tyranny of Turn-by-Turn Pedestrian Navigation. In MobileHCI '10: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services, pp. 341–344. (Download paper (PDF)).

See also:

S. Robinson, M. Jones, J. Williamson, R. Murray-Smith, P. Eslambolchilar, M. Lindborg, Navigation Your Way: From Spontaneous Independent Exploration to Dynamic Social Journeys. In Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 16 (8), pp. 973–985, 2012. (Download paper (PDF preprint)).

J. Williamson, S. Robinson, C. Stewart. R. Murray-Smith, M. Jones, S. Brewster. Social Gravity: A Virtual Elastic Tether for Casual, Privacy-Preserving Pedestrian Rendezvous. In CHI '10: Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Human factors in Computing Systems, pp. 1485–1494. (Download paper (PDF)).