Navdy's planned heads-up car display works with iPhone or Android

The HUD can be controlled by hand gestures or voice commands

The Navdy HUD during a text message. Text messages can be controlled with voice commands using Apple's Siri or Google Voice.

The Navdy HUD during a text message. Text messages can be controlled with voice commands using Apple's Siri or Google Voice.

Using a phone while driving can be risky business, even if it's connected to an infotainment system, because it can still require a driver to glance away from the road to look at phone's screen. But a new windshield display technology that uses touchless gesture recognition and echo- and noise-canceling voice recognition hopes to address that problem.

The prototype heads-up display (HUD), called Navdy, has been launched as a crowdsourcing project, allowing anyone to pre-order it for $299 -- 40% off the $499 retail price. The company hopes to raise $60,000 for production.

Crowdsourcing backers who pre-order get a discount for spreading the word; everytime someone buys Navdy from a referral, the person who referred it gets a $30 discount. In other words, after 10 referrals the Navdy would be free. Early project backers also get to vote on which smartphone apps and features they'd like Navdy to support when it ships in early 2015.

Navdy is not the first portable HUD. GPS manufacturer Garmin released a portable HUD called the HUD+ earlier this year. The HUD+ retails for $180, but does not include hand gesture controls and apps can add to the cost of the device.

For example, the ability to speak street names can for navigation can cost up to $35. And, Garmin's Viago app can require up to $95 of add-ons to activate all of its features, according to a review in the New York Times.

Car manufacturers, such as Audi, BMW and Cadillac also offer HUD as an option, but those systems can run $3,000 or more.

Navdy works with navigation apps such as Google Maps for turn-by-turn directions, and music apps such as Spotify, Pandora, iTunes Music and Google Play Music. Using voice commands via Apple's Siri or Google Voice, the HUD can also write, read aloud or display notifications from text messages or social media apps, such as Twitter. Navdy is compatible with iPhone (iOS 7 and beyond) and Android (4.3 and beyond) smartphones.

Phone calls, texting or other applications can also be controlled with hand gestures enabled by an infrared camera.

The Navdy HUD includes an internal accelerometer, e-compass and an ambient light sensor that automatically brightens or dims the display to adjust to the light around it. "Navdy is built from the ground up to be the safest and most intuitive way to make calls, use navigation, listen to music or access notifications without ever looking away from the road," Navdy co-founder and CEO Doug Simpson said in a statement.

The Navdy uses large and easy-to-see proprietary apps such as navigation specifically designed not to inhibit driving. The device simply adheres to the driver side dashboard and projects a 5.1-in transparent screen that appears to float six feet in front of the windshield so a driver can maintain focus on the road.

Navdy can be moved from vehicle to vehicle and syncs with iPhone or Android smartphones via WiFi (802.11 b/g/n) or Bluetooth 4.0/LE.

Simpson said the idea for the HUD came from rethinking how to make mobile apps more intuitive and easy to control when someone is driving a car or truck. "Drivers are three times more likely to get into an accident when they take their eyes off the road to look down at a touchscreen," Simpson said. "Smartphones were never designed to be used while driving. Touchscreen-based apps force you to take your eyes off the road."

Other NAVDY features include:

Audio out via Bluetooth or 3.5mm minijack, mini-USB port

Internal speaker and microphone with noise canceling DSP

Dual core processor running Android 4.4

OBD-II power and data connection to car computer, with optional 12 volt power adapter

Portable, bendable, non-marking, powered friction mount, with magnetic connection to the device

The Navdy is about 5-in. x 5.5-in. x 3.7-in. in size.

The HUD device works by plugging into a vehicle's onboard computer (OBD II) port, which is standard on any car or truck manufactured after 1996. The device then connects to an iPhone or Android device via

In addition to navigation instructions, incoming calls, or being able to use voice commands to text, the HUD can also display a car's speed or if any alerts from the car's onboard computer, such as the "check engine" light, miles-to-empty, fuel economy stats, tire-pressure warning or battery-voltage warning from the car's computer.

"It's the same technology used by airline pilots to keep their eyes on the runway while landing an airplane," the company said.

Lucas Mearian covers consumer data storage, consumerization of IT, mobile device management, renewable energy, telematics/car tech and entertainment tech for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at @lucasmearian or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed. His e-mail address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

Tags Automotiveconsumer electronicsNavdyindustry verticals

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