HUDWAY - Student's Choice
The student’s choice topic I have chosen is an innovative use of augmented reality, called HUDWAY. HUDWAY displays information to the driver of a vehicle in a way that involves minimizing the distractions that are associated with your smartphone. HUDWAY Drive is a standalone heads-up display containing it’s own projector mechanism that can be mounted on the dash over the steering wheel. It can be connected via Bluetooth to HUDWAY’s suite of apps, from which it recieves the information that needs to be projected to the driver. HUDWAY Glass, on the other hand, provides just a reflective lens perched on top of a mount, inside which you can place your smartphone. You can then start any of HUDWAY’s apps on your phone and place it inside the mount, which is then reflected to you using the lens, augmenting your vision in quite a unique and distraction-free way.
You can find my 5-minute YouTube about this topic below.
HUDWAY is a company that makes heads-up displays for driving. Its flagship product is HUDWAY Drive, which is a standalone AR display device that gives useful information to the driver. The company also has a display device called HUDWAY Glass that uses an augmented reality app on your phone to project the information onto the display. Both these devices can be connected via Bluetooth to the driver’s phone, from which they extract the information that needs to be displayed.
To give a brief description of how it started out, the company initially made an app like Google Maps called HUDWAY Go whose main purpose was to serve directional information to the user with very minimal distractions.
What made the app AR was the fact that you could switch the app to the “HUD Mode” which would reverse the display on the phone in a way that could be projected onto a reflective surface. You could keep the app on the dash and switch to HUD Mode so that the map looks like it is being generated on your windshield. As you can see below, the reversed display from the phone gets reflected accurately from the mirror.
But one major problem was that the windshield would sometimes be interrupted by scratches or rain droplets that would refract the light away.
AR lenses are specially designed optical see-through (OST) displays that reflect some wavelengths of light and are transparent for the remaining wavelengths. It is impractical to replace the entire windshield with this type of glass because of the potential risk to safety, and hence, HUDWAY came up with its own custom heads-up display/mount system. For just $49, you could buy the HUDWAY Glass that is an OST-based heads-up display that you could place on the dash above your steering wheel. It also comes with a mount in which you can place your phone that you use to project the app’s HUD Mode onto the glass. This opened the door for a whole suit of customizations that could be added to the HUD. Since the content to be displayed is generated on your phone, HUDWAY uses this design to add a lot of custom widgets, either to their app or through a standalone app. You can choose what kind of information you want displayed on your HUD, such as map directions, call and message notifications, speed limit, temperature, music playlist etc. It is also possible to use a 3rd party app with HUDWAY Glass as long as it provides the reversed HUD Mode display to project onto the glass. If you search on the PlayStore or AppStore using the keyword “HUD”, you would see a lot of available widgets and apps that have the reversed display available.
Even more recently, HUDWAY came out with the HUDWAY Drive, which it markets as its flagship product. The HUDWAY Drive has one key difference from the HUDWAY Glass – your phone does not reflect the information that is displayed on the HUD. Rather, the information is taken from the phone via Bluetooth, and the Drive has its own projection apparatus to convert the information into a useful infographic that is then displayed on the HUD. HUDWAY Drive is powered by its own app called HUDWAY Drive that allows the HUD to display different kinds of information, similar to HUDWAY Glass, and is also highly customizable to the needs of the driver. Additionally, with some moderate setup, you can also connect the vehicle’s on-board diagnostics (OBD) to the HUD, which is then able to display some of the dashboard information such as the odometer, fuel consumption etc, too. The embedded video below gives a walk-through about setting up and using the HUDWAY Drive.
Why is it a good use of VR and AR?
- The problem that HUDWAY is trying to solve is distracted driving. Texting or using the phone while driving remains one of the top causes of automobile accidents and poses a great risk to both the driver and the other commuters on the road. Obviously, most of the responsibility of not using the phone when driving remains on the driver, but steps can be taken to minimize the chances of distraction regardless.
- A lot of the modern cars allow the phone to be interfaced with custom displays on the aisle or have special phone holders close to the steering wheel, but this still forces drivers to take their eyes off the road momentarily. As such, augmenting the vision of the driver with useful information seems like a very safe approach that can avoid loss of concentration while driving. In this way, drivers do not need to look far for the information they need but can instead view what they want on the HUD which is directly in their line of sight.
- Some of the information that can be conveyed to the driver include directions, speed limit, weather information, and social media notifications. Most of this information is benefitted by the aesthetic visualizations that augmented reality can deliver. For the purposes of driving, it is desirable to have minimalistic widgets that show different kinds of information in a unified HUD. The driver in this case is hugely benefitted by the customization capabilities available to the widgets.
- In a lot of cases, the augmented reality is also able to supply information that was previously inaccessible or difficult to access for drivers, such as a single place to view both the speed limit (from the phone) as well as the odometer (from the vehicle).
- The HUDWAY devices differentiate themselves from traditional augmented reality applications in that they don’t have any form of tracking involved, and thus don’t require cameras. This is mainly because most of the information that needs to be augmented in the driver’s line of sight can be obtained from phone and vehicle data alone. However, it is possible to integrate tracking for advanced features such as having the directions overlaid on the plane of the road, or having a bounding box for road signs etc.
Who are its intended users?
The HUDWAY devices are intended for drivers. HUDWAY also has a wearable head-mounted display called HUDWAY Sight under development that can be universally attached to any helmet, so cyclists and bikers will soon also be a part of the intended users of HUDWAY. Although this feature doesn’t exist for HUDWAY devices specifically, there is a lot of potential to display tips to new drivers or driving students, which can be another demographic that can take advantage of AR-based HUDS for driving. I am pretty sure solutions like HUDWAY also exist for pilots in jets and airplanes, and solutions like HUDWAY Sight exist as part of the combat helmets for special forces.
- As already mentioned, HUDWAY devices like Drive and Glass allow drivers to access the information they need directly in their line of sight. This helps prevent a lot of road accidents that result due to distractions caused by the phone
- Connecting to a mobile device using either Bluetooth or through reflection gives the HUD access to the HUDWAY apps and consequently a wealth of information that can be displayed to the driver without the driver needing to take the focus of the road
- The display of information can be customized based on the needs of the driver in the app before driving starts, which is quite difficult to achieve with a smartphone or a central display which always requires some setting up to do in case you want to view different information at the same time
- The fact that the information is customizable gives us freedom in designing the widgets in ways that are most informative and least distracting
- The HUDWAY Go and Drive apps are also equipped with a voice assistant that politely prompts the driver before a turn
- The HUDWAY devices are not exclusive to specific cars on which they can be installed. The solutions are truly universal, and they can be set up in any car that has a charging port and space on the dash above the steering wheel.
- The HUDWAY Glass allows any 3rd party app to be reflected onto the Glass as long as it has the reversed HUD Mode available. The HUDWAY Drive relies on the HUDWAY Drive app, but also has WiFi functionality to screencast any other app on it’s HUD. This is an example of how it uses IOT to enable universality and customization.
- The angle of the display screen can also be adjusted to provide maximum comfort and accessibility to the driver
- The HUDWAY Glass is a very inexpensive solution in proportion to the problem it solves. The cost of setting up the Glass in your car is very less compared to the problem it solves – the cost you pay when you are involved in an accident, so it is quite easy to encourage its user adoption
- The biggest disadvantage is that none of the HUDWAY devices work without a smartphone. It would be great if there standalone HUD that can utilize information from the vehicle and GPS to give the driver useful information. Though, it should be noted that features like call and message notifications would not work without a smartphone.
- Even though the HUDWAY apps provide a lot of ways to customize the information displayed on the HUD before a trip, if a customization needs to be done mid-trip, the driver still has to meddle with the app on the phone to change the settings, which highlights the lack of interactability with the AR
- The HUDWAY Glass has a constraint on the size of the phone that can be placed inside this mount, which automatically disqualifies some of the phones available
- The HUDWAY Drive is priced at $199 which is quite expensive for a HUD