A few nights ago, Christina and I were driving down to Corsicana to pick up our niece for the weekend. While driving, I decided that I needed to find a QuikTrip to get a good drink. Having just installed Google’s new Voice Search update, I tapped the shortcut I’d setup and said ‘Find the nearest QuikTrip‘. (Normally I’d call it a QT, but I figured I’d help the software out a bit). As expected, the phone responded a few seconds later with a list of QuikTrip gas station locations that were ‘near’ us. Good so far. Unfortunately, the two that it found were both in the OPPOSITE direction that I was currently heading down the freeway at 70MPH.
I’ve struggled with this before, and I suspect I’ll struggle with it again – while the latest and greatest location-based services are helpful, they all miss on a key component, and Nokia is the only company that I have heard use this word in the same sentence as location: context. In the situation above, my contextual location would have told the software that since I was heading down the freeway at 70MPH (and had been, with maps running, for a few minutes), that I probably didn’t want to turn around and go 10 miles in the opposite direction. My direction and velocity are the context, which should have told the software to look for QuikTrip locations along the highway that I was traveling on, in the direction in which I was traveling.
Another time this problem appears is in the automatic re-routing feature on most modern GPS systems. If I miss my turn (usually on purpose, for testing, but still), all it says for the next 10 minutes is a series of U-turn opportunities. What if I don’t want to make a U-turn, for whatever reason? Why not look ahead in the journey and see if you can re-route me in a forward motion?
It’s this intelligence that I’m anxiously looking forward to from today’s leading GPS applications (those being, in my opinion, Google Maps Navigation, Telenav, and Ovi Maps). Such an intelligence addition might bring the likes of TomTom and Garmin back to relevance in the marketplace, too. Basically, even when not actively navigating, I want to abolish this whole ‘search within an X mile radius‘ thinking from today’s location-based services, and get into more contextual results that take into account other aspects, such as speed and direction of travel.
Have you experienced this, too? What other contextual location data can you think of that would be helpful?