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Sony Launches Three Linux-based In-car Navigation Devices 172

An anonymous reader writes "Sony has introduced three Linux-based in-car navigation and entertainment devices in Japan today. The NV-XYZ 33, 55, and 77 feature 3D map navigation technology, media players, hard drives, GPS, and PC connectivity. They are based on MIPS processors and a Linux 2.4-series kernel. They also appear to use a GateKeeper copy protection scheme, which may prevent them from being used with Linux desktops and normal media files." Still, the 3-D representations of actual buildings on the maps is pretty impressive.
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Sony Launches Three Linux-based In-car Navigation Devices

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  • GPL my car! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:05PM (#9393878)
    Now all we need is to get Honda to GPL their engineering specifications.
    • Re:GPL my car! (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Well a start would be for the government to get off its ass and finally open OBD-II specs. Then the computer overclockers and car tuners could joing forces as one!
    • But does it run... (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      ...on alternative fuels?

    • Re:GPL my car! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kfg ( 145172 )
      Other than a few odd bits of firmware their engineering specifications are already Open Sourced and come free with every car, although perhaps a bit patent encumbered.

      It's your responsibility to be able to understand the source though. They don't have a responsibility to tutor you on it.

      Dare I say, RTFM?

  • by Eric(b0mb)Dennis ( 629047 ) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:06PM (#9393882)
    What does "other media files" mean? An in-car entertainment device with DRM or what?

    There are other alternatives, the last thing I need is a 3d representation of the buildings...

    "Hey honey check out that building on the screen about 50 feet away..."

    • by bigben7187 ( 754240 ) <bcherry&gmail,com> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:11PM (#9393908) Homepage
      "obstacles in linux may be closer than they appear, obstacles in windows may be even closer"
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, but the nice cloud scene makes it worth it. And how are they going to know if there are road cones like depicted? It would be neat if they could find that stuff out (so on a long trip you can look at what a road construction area looks like at a rest stop prior to driving through). RFID the cones? Hell, with the british thinking of RFIDing all the cars, you could get a pretty good map of transportation blocks and such in a city. Neat stuff (and creepy if that comes to pass).
    • by GlassHeart ( 579618 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:29PM (#9394003) Journal
      the last thing I need is a 3d representation of the buildings...

      I wouldn't say that's the last thing one would need. If you're looking for a place you've never been to before, and the building happens to be distinctive (but you don't know it yet), then seeing it identified on the 3D map can help you find it in real life. It can also help you make a quick decision to take the empty parking space just before you get close enough to read the door number.

      Alternatively, the realistic display can be used to rehearse your route on a quick virtual drive. Personally, I remember directions much better if I've been there just once, and a quick virtual drive might just be all I need to avoid having to look at the map while actually driving.

      There are other alternatives

      Of course there are. You can take a taxi.

      • Rehearsal (Score:3, Funny)

        by r_j_prahad ( 309298 )
        Personally, I remember directions much better if I've been there just once, and a quick virtual drive might just be all I need to avoid having to look at the map while actually driving.

        Now there's a worthwhile idea... you could practice your getaway drive after knockin' over the local 7-Eleven. That could maybe help cut down on those pointless pursuits down dead-end alleys that always seem to befall the thugs on "Cops".
    • by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:29PM (#9394006) Homepage Journal
      Adobe Systems on Thursday said Sony has agreed to support Adobe's PDF document format and the Linux version of its reader software in the consumer electronics company's car navigation system.
      The Adobe technologies will be embedded in the Sony HDD AV Navi XYZ system, which is available only in Japan. The system will give drivers access to tourist books, maps, and other content delivered over the Internet.

      Adobe, based in San Jose, Calif., claims to have distributed more than a half-a-billion copies of its PDF reader to date. The software is used on numerous desktop and mobile device operating systems and platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, UNIX, Linux, Palm OS, Pocket PC and Symbian OS.
      • But acroread looks like a piece of shit in the AA'ed, theme-able environment of today's desktop (dashtop?) linux! :( When are they going to release a new reader? Kghostview or ggv are replacements that are more than capable to replace acroread. Although I myself recently had a problem in which I couldn't get a PDF to look/print correctly in viewers other than in Windows...
      • Adobe, based in San Jose, Calif., claims to have distributed more than a half-a-billion copies of its PDF reader to date.

        I can imagine that probably 80% of those "distributed copies" of Acrobat are to people who already "have" Acrobat Reader.

        We have a product based on PDF reports, and we link to Acroread in order to display these reports. We have *constant* problems with Acrobat acting flakey, getting pissy, and in general being cranky.

        When this happens, we uninstall Acrobat Reader, download a fresh cop
    • I wonder how they manage to have 3D representations of buildings and map out what laned are left turn only etc.?

      It would have to download cities as you enter them because there is no way it has that much HDD space.

      I am also pretty sure it only supports larger cities, unless Japanese tour busses are not really for tourists, maybe they are just here to take digital pictures for 3D maps. Think about it.

      • According to the article, these navigators include "proprietary Windows software" to export maps and other data. Some Japanese navigation systems include hard drives with as much as 16 GB of data -- and this is for a country that's as large as the United States' original 13 colonies.

        Once you throw in 3D representations of buildings and lane markings, there's got to be at least 30 GB of data available for this device.
        • 30gb? I hope not. It should be rendering the buildings on the fly doing something as an extrusion of the building of so many feet based on an attribute. The only thing that would take up 30gb is the textures if they use pictures for the textures of the buildings themselves. Vector shape data doesnt take up much space and the data related to the shapes wouldn't need to be big, just name/address/phone number if its commercial, symbol to use to draw, base height and extrusion height.
          For the city I work in
      • Japan would be easier to map out than the US. There are more people packed into a denser area. Crude 3d info about buildings doesn't have to take up vast amounts of space.

        It is quite an impressive feat of data collection though, even if it only covered one major city like Tokyo (and it goes beyond that). Cartographers already need to have people drive through a city recording streets and distances. With clever enough software and some cameras mounted on a car, you could get a crude 3d map of a city b
    • Well if you had ever been to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania you would know why 3D maps are needed. On a traditional map it might look like two roads are close and parallel when in fact they are seperated by 100m of elevation!
  • windows... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Ronin_19 ( 750401 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:07PM (#9393885) Journal
    They first tried using windows but it crashed.
  • by nukey56 ( 455639 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:07PM (#9393887)
    Does this remind anyone else of Crazy Taxi?
  • i wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Suppafly ( 179830 ) <slashdot.suppafly@net> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:09PM (#9393896)
    how long it will take them to "remember" to release the source to the modified gpl programs that they will be using.
  • Wow, talk about the future! I'm suprised Windows never got to one of these devices before Linux did, really! Most in car stuff (if not modified by the user) is ran by some Microsoft-related product. It's still kind of steep in pricing, but it'll definetly come in price sooner. I wonder what competition's devices will be like? All we can do is wait!
    • Not really. After all, we all know about all those Windoze-powered hard drive in-car mp3 players right?

      Can you name any?

      Can you name any that made it to market before the linux-based Empeg? (Don't waste too much time on this one...)

    • Re:Crazy! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by generic-man ( 33649 )
      Clearly you forget the Microsoft AutoPC [], which never really caught on. Clarion wanted over $1,000 for a car-stereo-sized PC that you could customize with very expensive software add-ons.
    • I don't know what's so 'crazy' about it. Back in the summer of 2000, I equipped our van with, among other things, [] a general-purpose onboard computer that can do a lot more than just GPS-based real-time mapping and route planning. It's also equipped for APRS [] operations, and (as soon as I get a proper multimode wireless card and an additional antenna installed up top) 802.11 networking.

      At the risk of sounding a bit snobbish, I think the 12-inch TFT color display I've got up front beats the crap out of most o
  • Oh! 3d GPS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eric(b0mb)Dennis ( 629047 ) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:10PM (#9393900)
    In the board room:

    "We can put in a really cool way to navigate in this 3d rendered navigator.. we will call them.. STREET SIGNS.. so people can look at the buildings and then check the street signs for their current course"

    Uh, what is the point of a 3d rendered navigation system? Unless it's doing a better job than my eyes, I don't see the use at all.
    • Re:Oh! 3d GPS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by log2.0 ( 674840 )
      Perhaps you could virtually "drive" a few blocks away and see if there are any obsticles in you future path... Just knowing the way you want to go makes driving easier. The 3Dness would help you to visualise whats coming up. Although I kind of agree that a 2D map is good enough...but flashy 3D things are nice :)
    • Re:Oh! 3d GPS (Score:2, Interesting)

      by VanWEric ( 700062 )
      In boston, there are no street signs. Street names change without warning, and drivers are constantly pushing you around. As a non-native, I am hopelessly lost driving in that city. Anything that would reduce that feeling would be very welcome.
    • Re:Oh! 3d GPS (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hrieke ( 126185 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:15PM (#9393930) Homepage
      It's Japan. So, if you've never been there, and had no idea that there really isn't any logical progression of building / house numbers, trust me in that street signs can only take you so far.

      Having buildings & landmarks show up on the screen certainly would help people find their way around (eps. police, fire).
      • Anyone whose ever tried:sic to drive through london will know that the road signs are next to useless, and the wide pavements are a great way to avoid going around the one-way system? yet again.
      • Re:Oh! 3d GPS (Score:3, Insightful)

        by netsharc ( 195805 )
        That's true, I remember reading a blog entry, the writer said the back of business cards usually have a map, it tells you which train station is the nearest and the route to the place from that station. People inviting you give out a map as well, an example of this is in Lost in Translation, Charlotte faxes Bob a map of how to get to a place where she was going to meet some friends, the place turned out to be a strip-joint!
      • that most Japanese streets don't have names--only the highways and major arteries have names, and the rest are just "the third left after Akishima Station on Edo-kaido". It is incredibly difficult to find your way to a given address without a map.
        • On my one visit to a suburb of Tokyo, I got the impression that they do not have anything akin to a zoning board either.

          You'd have a small plot of land used for farming, next to some residential houses, next to a dump, next to a big commercial building, next to another farm, and so on...
          • They have something of the sort (I'm living in an apartment so I'm not sure of the details), but on the other hand, there's pretty much no space left in Tokyo--land around Tokyo Station, for example, goes for something like 6 million yen per square meter--so they have to squeeze new buildings wherever they can fit them. As soon as somebody sells off their house/land, big corps or real estate guys snatch it up for yet another office building or apartment complex or what have you. The neighborhood I used to

      • It isn't just Japan. Read Mark Twain's little essay on getting around Munich (was it "the German Chicago"?) for some venting on the subject of street signs.
    • Re:Oh! 3d GPS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DNAspark99 ( 218197 )
      ... what is the point of a 3d rendered navigation system? Unless it's doing a better job than my eyes, I don't see the use at all.

      That's just it - it *can* do a better job than your eyes, especially in an area you've never been before or othewise have no previous knowledge of actual destination location. With this, it can highlight your path and virtually aquaint you with the area beforehand, so you'll allready have an idea of things like where to park the car, and what entrance way to use. Once again, te
      • Re:Oh! 3d GPS (Score:4, Interesting)

        by hawkeyeMI ( 412577 ) <(moc.ecitkcorb) (ta) (kcorb)> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:10PM (#9394222) Homepage
        Add a full-windshield heads-up display, subtract the rendering and let it match the scenery to a database - voila! ultimate guidance system. It could flash imaginary arrows and highlight things. When you're low on gas it could put a big red box around the nearest gas station in sight, or provide big red arrows to show you where to go, or even tell if you've been ignoring it too long and there are none within the range of the gas you have left :) Looking for someplace to eat, or little Johnny *really* has to go? It can show you where to find a restaurant of the type of your choice or find the nearest rest stop.

        I give it another ten years before this kind of equipment (not the article, but what I mentioned) becomes affordable in the US.

    • Re:Oh! 3d GPS (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GlassHeart ( 579618 )

      Some cities have helpful street signs that actually tell you what the next cross street is. Some cities don't, and you won't find out that you're in the wrong lane until you're right at the intersection. This is when the worst drivers make a right turn from the left lane, and endanger everybody else. The good drivers, on the other hand, waste time finding a way to U-turn.

      Now, if only we had a device that could tell you to change lanes before you're at the intersection...

      • I think Boston may take the prize for the city with the worst street signs. I haven't driven around there in about 4 years, but when I did I couldn't believe it. Roads just end, or turn into other roads, or take turns without notice. And there are NO SIGNS anywhere in that city, I swear to God. I usually just tried to find the highway and get out of town ASAP. Washington D.C., while no directional mecca, is much, much's a big grid.

        • Boston's not that bad. But it does help a lot if you have one of those street map atlases in your car. At any rate, you eventually get used to where things are at.
    • Re:Oh! 3d GPS (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jackb_guppy ( 204733 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:39PM (#9394067)
      Next they need to add is heads-up display. By projecting this on the window sheild so you can look thoughit it will really help to tell when to turn.

      Then we all can use those really dark window tints!!
    • Re:Oh! 3d GPS (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bushcat ( 615449 )
      In Japan, in any given block the buildings tend to be numbered in the order in which the block was originally populated. So if you're standing in front of 3-10-17, all you know about 3-10-16 is that it's within 200 meters or so in any direction. Only major roads have names, minor roads do not. Dead ends are typically not marked as such. Finally, just in case this all seems trivial, there are buildings totally surrounded by others, with no street access. And this is in a "sensible" city. Some were designed w
    • It could do a better job than eyes alone. In an estimation problem, each piece of information helps. This system would have helped. It could be a boon to people who navigate. I once had a job that required finding street addresses in unfamiliar places.
  • 3-D World Interface (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Scottm87 ( 689558 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:10PM (#9393903)
    I used to visit [] a lot, and this is similar to the products they offered. There were always performance problems. The technology in this system looks much more advanced. The question of how to collect all the necessary information is still important, esp. in a physically larger country like the United States. It doesnt seem like it would be economical unless there is a large surcharge on the product to pay for all the necessary work to map a large portion of even the cities in the United States.
  • 3D is a nice touch (Score:5, Informative)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:14PM (#9393919) Homepage
    According to the article's image, this 3D approach has two advantages - advertising and landmark spotting.

    Since human is good at recognizing patterns and objects, a 3D image of a building/landmark will greatly improve your chance of making that critical turn.
  • I was looking into putting a linux box into my car, and make something similar. I couldn't find any good mapping programs for linux that covered the USA, and also gave driving directions. Are there any?
  • GTA? (Score:5, Funny)

    by jals ( 667347 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:14PM (#9393929)
    Looks like the maps for the first Grand Theft Auto. Does the thing also identify where Spray and Bomb shops are?
    • If there are any in your neighborhood, it probably will--displaying nearby businesses by category is a standard function on car-navigation systems.
  • who SCO's next "victim" will be...
  • by DarkHazard ( 713597 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:21PM (#9393965)
    Perhaps this could be a proof of Linux use in the consumer electronics market. If Sony continues to develop products with Linux integration, the market should follow.
    After all Sony has been an innovator in the past and this should be no different. If Linux were to become a big thing in Japan then it would also become a big thing in America.
  • by bergeron76 ( 176351 ) * on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:21PM (#9393967)
    Dashwerks is about to release our flagship telematics server. It's a very similar product, however, ours originates in (and is) open-source. It's been seen on here before [] (back in 2001).

  • by oldgeezer1954 ( 706420 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:22PM (#9393976)
    At least that way I could constantly reboot the thing while I'm tied up in traffic and fool myself into thinking I was being productive.

    This isn't a sig... The weekend is almost here and heck yeah I'm posting from a win xp box today. Lighten up, life is too short:)

  • by Dieppe ( 668614 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:31PM (#9394012) Homepage
    One advantage I see to 3D buildings might be driving in fog... or smog. They need to incorporate it with a HUD, I think, to really be worthwhile... and then have hazard avoidance to apply brakes in case of a car or other barrier in front of the car..

    Well, like a pedestrian or something.

    But imagine it on a HUD with the buildings perfectly matching what you see outside...

    Well, for $2k I'll use my eyes.. but fog.. you know... FOG! :)

  • by Bushcat ( 615449 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:33PM (#9394030)
    Add-ons include a rear-facing camera as a reversing aid for those defeated by mirror-based technology, and a Level 2 & 3 VICS antenna.

    VICS supplies real-time traffic congestion, accident and time-to-destination information through roadside or overhead radio beacons dotted all over major roads. VICS-aware navigation systems can then automatically re-route around problem areas.

    Apart from the very cute display, Sony is playing catch-up here, though the home cradle is nice: maps can be updated via an internet service that starts in July.

    Some systems receive traffic updates via PHS and cellphones in addition to, or instead of, radio. Subscription services provide frequently updated information on speed cameras, mobile speed traps and other inconveniences.

    VICS [].

  • What would it take to make a PC fit in a DIN or 2 DIN hole in your car, stick in an 80 or so gig drive and you would have the ultimate deck, now how would you make a linux distro to run that and display on some LCD or DMD screen, I guess you would need a good amp as well Its worth a though I guess
  • banners (Score:5, Funny)

    by zlel ( 736107 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:36PM (#9394053) Homepage
    Will Sony also be selling ad-space on the buildings in their 3D maps? No pop-ups please!
    • Re:banners (Score:2, Informative)

      Ummm... yes?

      From the article [] :

      "The 3D mapping interface shows actual buildings, and knows street addresses, enabling it to identify destination addresses. In the picture at right, it has identified a gas station belonging to a promotional partner. Advertising for many other businesses, such as fast food outlets, appears to be built into the maps."

  • by Samah ( 729132 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:51PM (#9394126)
    Well I don't know about other countries, but in Australia it's illegal to operate a mobile phone while driving (unless it's hands-free), and I believe it's also illegal to have a TV or similar device in a car in view of the driver (ie. they can be in the headrests for the back passengers).
    The ability to watch TV on these devices is going to cause some serious legal issues if they ever take off here (unlikely).
  • luxury upon luxury (Score:5, Informative)

    by davejenkins ( 99111 ) <slashdot@davejen[ ] ['kin' in gap]> on Thursday June 10, 2004 @09:59PM (#9394162) Homepage
    For people living in and around Tokyo, a car itself is a luxury-- just as it would be for someone in Manhattan. You cannot buy a car without proof of parking space (usually $200-400/month).

    With that market, expensive add-ons to pimp out your ride are very appealing. Those who go to the trouble to own a car (when you really don't need one in the city) are obviously very into that car as a status symbol. Combined with the absolute need for mapping systems (the grid is purposefully convoluted), and Sony should see some good sales.

    No one here uses CD players in cars-- they all use MD players, but are quickly moving to HDDs that interface with their iPODs. DVDs are a nice way to spend the time while waiting in traffic or waiting for friends to arrive (I usually wait 30 minutes somewhere when meeting friends).
  • Nifty. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mr. methane ( 593577 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:05PM (#9394194) Journal
    The closest I've seen to this is in Nissan/Infinity cars, which has a "looking down from an angle" view of the map, instead of the traditional "view from directly overhead".

    Still, one of the big annoyances with these things is updates. If you live in a mature city with rare changes in roadways, it's great, but if you live in an area which is still rapidly developing, there tend to be a lot of roads that pop up seemingly overnight (i.e. I noticed a shopping center on the way home last night which was an empty lot a week ago!)
  • w00t (Score:3, Funny)

    by javert ( 265031 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:05PM (#9394197) Homepage
    Carmaggedon, here we come!
  • Their use will be outlawed in most countries and states within a few years because of studies that show you drive like a drunk watching the thing the whole time.
  • Infiniti G35 (Score:3, Informative)

    by IceFox ( 18179 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:26PM (#9394292) Homepage
    My 04 Infiniti G35 came with a navigation system that offers a birds eye view which I find more appealing. I am able to much more quickly grasp where I am and where I am going. Although not the best photo (google image search for better ones) here is one: here []

    -Benjamin Meyer

  • I hope (Score:3, Funny)

    by daishin ( 753851 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:27PM (#9394301) Homepage
    That they have it so as youre driving you can pick up power ups, and when you get a hitchhiker you have to take them to their destination on time, this reminds me of something
  • Mapping software (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Thursday June 10, 2004 @10:30PM (#9394332) Homepage Journal
    I'd just like to see *somebody*, anybody, release a decent trip planning package for Linux.

    I used to hold out hope for Delorme [], but since they discontinued support for Mac [] and went pure Windows I've given that up. There was a glimmer of a chance for change [], but that was dashed upon the rocks of /. apathy [].
  • Because when you put together Sony, Linux, 3d graphics and MIPS CPU, I think Playstation 2.

    • I think its interesting that Sony are looking at linux more and more. It seems to be a general process i think when companies try, and see the benefits of linux they then begin to use it in different packages. Its like many linux users will say I tried linux x-years ago and never looked back. Once you've tasted of the fruit its hard to stop!

      I heard that Sony are stopping production of the clie ... I wonder if they have something more exciting in the pipeline? eg: take one PSP re-form-factorize into pda; sl
  • Lemme grab my Hawaiian shirts and shoulder fired missiles. I'm off to the hardware store.
  • I wonder if this device is indicative of why Sony dropped their US Palm lineup. It seems this would've been a device ideal for PalmOS; at the very least, a device who's operating system could be in direct competition to Palm. This thing obviously does more than just navigation. With its media capabilities and touchscreen interface, it may be Sony has a slick embeded OpenPDA-like embedded OS soon to be found on a 'Clie' near you.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker