Losing our sense of direction to GPS

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Losing our sense of direction to GPS

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Sometimes, I have to drive several hours to run errands or meet people. Then, I appreciate the guidance of a GPS system, especially when I visit an unfamiliar destination. Not so long ago, I had to drive four hours with both built-in GPS and smartphone GPS apps on. I am more familiar with the design of the built-in GPS navigation, and the smartphone GPS reflects the real-time traffic conditions better.

As I drove, they provided more joy than simple route guidance. Two women with beautiful voices provided me with direction. The voice on the built-in GPS navigation system is calm and clear while the voice on my smartphone is energetic and cheerful. Enjoying the beautiful weather and blooming flowers, I got kind directions from two ladies. But you shouldn’t trust the navigation guide completely. Two years ago, a driver was following the navigation in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang, and the car fell off the road when it ended abruptly, resulting in serious injury.

The navigation service providers hire voice actors to record different patterns and put together the directions. Phrases like “Turn left,” “Turn right,” “200 meters ahead” and “100 meters ahead” are recorded separately, and they are combined to provide appropriate information. Ahn Seol-e of the Management Planning Team of Hyundai MN Soft said that the company’s Gini and Mappy navigation systems have more than 20,000 pattern combinations and update traffic conditions every quarter. The company also provides regional dialects and celebrity voices. In contrast, Gyeon Hyeon-ung of Thinkware, which produces iNavi, said that one voice actor with a comfortable and friendly voice has been recording the navigation guidance for a long time.

While companies have their own policies, they have one thing in common. They use female voices. From elevators to ATMs, female voices offer guidance, and there is a theory that people find female voices more familiar as we have grown accustomed to the voices of our mothers.

But wouldn’t a female driver want to get directions from the sweet voice of Harry Belafonte? Perhaps Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors are listening. They will begin to provide two voices - one male and one female - in models produced from now on.

However, as I’ve been following the voice’s orders, I’ve lost my sense of direction. I used to look up places on the map and figure out the route before I left. The real map provides a bigger picture before zooming into the exact destination. But navigation made me care only about the next turn.

A friend of mine said that because of the high-tech navigation, we have lost our bird’s-eye view and gained a worm’s-eye view. That’s a kind of digital dementia. The problem is that there is a lot more to lose as technology advances.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun
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