Just around the Corner: GPS Navigation Evolved

just around the corner gps navigation evolved satellite 3

As one of the hottest consumer tech items over the past decade, you probably know quite a bit about GPS navigation.

You’re aware they communicate with satellites above the earth to pinpoint your exact location. And with the help of mapping software and a friendly voice, these dashboard devices can help you navigate from point A to point B and perhaps find nearby points of interest (POIs), such as gas stations and restaurants.

You also likely know many models offer Bluetooth connectivity that turns your GPS unit into a hands-free speakerphone; many of these gadgets feature text-to-voice translation so you can hear spoken street names, and many GPS units can store and play other digital media such as music, audiobooks, photos and videos.

But this is just the beginning. Today’s – and tomorrow’s – GPS navigation units go beyond these core features. So here’s a peek at some current trends and upcoming ones to look for in case you’re saving or shopping for a roadworthy upgrade.

just around the corner gps navigation evolved garmin nuvi 765tFree traffic updates

Many of today’s GPS units can steer you away from heavily congested areas on the road, caused by construction, accidents or rush-hour volume in most major cities in the U.S. and Canada. Thankfully, GPS manufacturers have stopped charging for the service that used to cost about $60 a year.

Garmin now offers free lifetime traffic warnings in products with the letter “T” in its name, such as the Garmin nüvi 765T ($219.99). Many TomTom and Magellan GPS units also support free traffic updates, but it depends on the model; examples include the TomTom GO 740 LIVE ($299.99) and Magellan RoadMate 3065 ($249.99).

In fact, the 4.7-inch Magellan RoadMate 3065 also includes a feature called Traffic Wakeup that powers on your GPS device and provides real-time traffic updates when you want them (such as in the morning before you leave the house).

just around the corner gps navigation evolved navigon mobile navigatorApp-tastic

Rather than purchasing a standalone GPS unit, many smartphone owners are downloading navigation applications (“apps”) for their smartphone of choice, be it the iPhone, BlackBerry or Android-powered handset.

After all, you never leave home without your smartphone, so why not get accurate directions wherever life takes you?

Some solutions are a one-time download – such as the Navigon Mobile Navigator ($79.95) and TomTom U.S. & Canada ($39.95) for iPhone – while others are a GPS service for about $10 a month or $100 a year, such as TeleNav GPS Navigator for BlackBerry smartphones.

Note: Google Maps, which uses GPS technology, is free on many smartphones, but because it doesn’t offer audio-based turn-by-turn instructions it renders it useless while you’re behind the wheel. Some Android phones, like Motorola’s Droid, offer Google Maps Navigation, which does include this crucial feature.

just around the corner gps navigation evolved garminfoneWho ya gonna call?

While many are downloading GPS apps for their smartphone, some GPS manufacturers are getting into the phone business.

Garminfone ($199.99 with 2-year T-Mobile plan), for example, is an Android-based phone with a car charger and mount included. As with other Android phones, you can access many Google services, download apps, check e-mail, surf the Web, chat with friends and get navigation instructions for driving and walking (pedestrian maps, by the way, let you walk down the wrong way of a one-way street).

Speaking of Google and Garmin, some products like the Garmin nuvi 1690 ($399.99) features nuLink! services that push real-time data for your location directly to the GPS nav unit. This includes gas prices, weather, movie times, real-time traffic, local events, and more. One year of free service is included with the purchase of supported device, and then it costs $60 a year for nuLink! after that.

just around the corner gps navigation evolved tomtom voice packsSpeak to me

While TomTom has offered downloadable voice packs for a few years now – from Homer Simpson to John Cleese – the company’s latest is sure to please sci-fi fans looking to spice up their road trip.

Darth Vader is the first of four Star Wars downloads available this summer for $12.95 apiece – followed by C-3PO, Yoda and Han Solo – each of which adds familiar character voices to your turn-by-turn directions.

The Sith Lord, for instance says things like “Bear left, to the dark side. Then in 200 yards you have reached your destination. The Force is with you, but you are not a Jedi yet.”

Sound effects from the films are also incorporated, such as lightsaber hums and soaring TIE fighters. John Williams’ orchestral music, including the iconic Imperial March, is also peppered throughout the navigation instructions.

One caveat: these voice packs will only work with standalone TomTom nav units and not the TomTom iPhone app.

Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Wearables

Everything you need to know about Garmin’s GPS watches and trackers

Garmin jumped into the GPS smartwatch and fitness tracker market five years ago and has built a portfolio of devices that rivals competitor Fitbit. Here's your guide to the latest and greatest fitness devices that Garmin has to offer.
Cars

Want to keep connected on the road? Here are 5 ways to add Bluetooth to your car

The best way to make an old ride feel young again is to bring it up speed with the 21st century. Here's how to properly add Bluetooth to your vehicle, via independent kits, vehicle adapters, or aftermarket head units.
Mobile

These 100 best iPhone apps will turn your phone into a jack-of-all-trades

The iPhone is the most popular smartphone in the world, and we want to bring out the best in yours. Behold our comprehensive list of the best iPhone apps, from time-saving productivity tools to fun apps you won’t be able to put down.
Deals

The best iRobot Roomba deals to make cleaning your home a breeze

Keep your home clean without lifting a finger using a robot vacuum cleaner. These nine iRobot Roomba deals not only help you keep your home tidy, but many also come with advanced features such as automatic scheduling and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?
Emerging Tech

Believe it or not, this fire-proof exoskeleton isn’t designed for space marines

A company called Levitate Technologies has developed a fire-resistant upper body exoskeleton that’s capable of lowering exertion levels by up to 80 percent when you carry out manual work.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.
Emerging Tech

Frogs regrow ‘paddle-like’ limbs when placed in a bioreactor

Frogs have partially regrown amputated limbs thanks to a bioreactor at Tufts University. By jump-starting tissue repair, the bioreactor helped the amphibians regenerate a bigger, more complete appendages than they usually do.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

China says it has developed a quantum radar that can see stealth aircraft

Chinese defense giant China Electronics Technology Group Corporation claims that it has developed a quantum radar that's able to detect even the stealthiest of stealth aircraft. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Glass orb packs all the constellations in the night sky into fancy desk ornament

Ever wanted to know more about the star constellations? A stunning new Kickstarter campaign, taking the form of a fancy desk ornament that re-creates the night sky in a glass orb, aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.