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A car navigation system that will hypnotize you

One of Pioneer's in-car navigation systems features 3D imaging. It's mesmerizing, which might be it's biggest drawback.

CHIBA, Japan--Here's something that will surely drive up your insurance costs.

At Ceatec Japan 2007, the country's big high-tech trade show, Pioneer is showing off a car navigation system with virtual 3D pop-ups designed to help you drive. You want to find a parking spot? You touch the middle screen on the three-screen navigation/control system and a hologram-like 3D image of a parking symbol comes up. You then touch the floating blue "P" and swipe it to a screen on the left--which shows a map of your current position on the globe and your direction of travel--with a flick of the finger. The map suddenly updates to show you all the parking spots in the area and their location.

Pioneer's 3D navigator
The 3D-imaging features of Pioneer's in-car navigation system are entertaining--but perhaps a bit too distracting. Michael Kanellos/CNET

It was a lot of fun to use, and you could see it being very handy in finding parking spots or gas stations. But in a moving car it seems like an accident waiting to happen. You feel compelled to stare at the 3D image, all the way until you hit the pole. I watched several people doing the demo and they all stared at the floating 3D image.

On the bright side, Pioneer did have a much cooler navigation prototype that can seek out images. Let's say you ask for directions to a Carpeteria store. On one screen of the two-screen navigation system, you have a standard map plotting your location and direction. On the other screen, you have a feed of images of what's ahead on the road: stores, intersections, gas stations, etc. When the name of your destination shows up on a road sign on the traffic feed, it puts a yellow box around it, thus giving you a visual warning that you're almost there.

Even if you see it only on your peripheral vision, the yellow signal is unmistakable. If you happen to be touring Las Vegas and there are a lot of signs that read "Only a few more blocks to the Golden Nugget," you will get a lot of false positives, but in most situations it would probably work pretty well. It's still in development.