They can plumb the Internet for the latest movie times, news headlines, stock figures and gas prices. They'll even help you skirt traffic, find a parking spot or make a phone call. Oh, and they'll navigate for you, too.
The latest global positioning system devices on display at this week's International Consumer Electronics Show are roving information portals — well beyond the first turn-by-turn GPS guides with maps and directions.
Now practically taken for granted, GPS technology is available for tracking hikers, boaters and pilots and it's routine in cars, sports watches and cell phones.
Manufacturers hoping to continue commanding premium prices as prices for plain vanilla portable navigation devices plunged below $200 are cramming as many extra features on the devices as possible.
At CES, Garmin Ltd. announced the Nuvi 880, which debuts in the second quarter for $1,000, and the 780, out next month for $800. Both get real-time information from Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Direct system, which requires a subscription of $50 per year or $130 for the life of the device. The more expensive model has speech-recognition so drivers can bark their commands.
As useful as the Microsoft system is, it provides one-way communication only, from the Internet to the device. Other new navigation units are harnessing cellular networks to let users send information back upstream.
For example, the French company Mobile Devices showed a unit that helps drivers find a nearby parking lot and query whether it has an open spot.
The upcoming Dash Express GPS device will let users conduct Web searches for locations or products, movie times, or the cheapest gas — and then it will direct them to the destination.
The $600 gadget by Dash Navigation Inc., created in partnership with Yahoo Inc., also makes the ambitious promise that it can combine data from conventional traffic-monitoring systems with the power of user-based intelligence. The Dash Express will send its users' speed and location data over the Internet, allowing the company to calculate up-to-the-minute traffic conditions and suggest alternate routes. Monthly service fees starting at $10 will be required for the connected features.
Magellan Navigation Inc., which is partnering with Google Inc. to provide local business listings on a $1,300 car-navigation unit, expects to eventually let users send contacts and calendars to their devices. The systems could automatically route you to your 9 a.m. appointment, or understand where to direct you when you say, "Tim Jones' home."
"We want the portable navigation device to be relevant to everyday life instead of just turning it on to get directions," Magellan CEO Nelson Chan said.
In the meantime, even basic maps benefit from all this connectivity. Now maps and landmarks can be updated after a device is purchased, reducing the chance a motorist will get foiled by such earthly matters as road changes and construction.
AP Technology Writer May Wong reported from San Jose, Calif.