The InSight

A head-up display for the information highway...


This report is the result of a design "contest" initiated by Apple Computer. It involves ten schools from all over the world, and consists of developing a new product that will help a certain group of people. The development is supposed to be iterative, producing better and better products, in co-operation with the future users. This year, 1995, the focus was to integrate the physical and the electronic worlds.

This report describes the project used to represent the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. It was selected out of four projects developed during the spring of '95.

Idea Background

Mankind has always been a group oriented being, first as a matter of safety, and later as a requisite for communication and personal development. Some people still have these reasons for staying in groups. If they stray too far away from their group, they might have great problems and discomfort finding their way back. Nature has several solutions to the problem of getting too far away from the group. An example is the wolf, which will howl and await the replies of its own group. Certain animals, like many birds and fish, can find their way to the nest or river from half around the world, using the magnetic fields, memory and smell sense.

The possibilities of modern electronics and communication provides completely new ways to solve similar problems for humans. Wireless communication has been present for a long time by now. There are also means to know exactly, within a few meters, about your location on the surface of the earth, using a Global Position System, consisting of signals sent by satellites and local transmitters. The original idea of this project was to improve the freedom of individuals in a group, using this technology, while maintaining the group feeling. It could be done by making it easier to locate and communicate with members of the group. The natural senses need not be the definition of closeness anymore.

Our final, extended idea is more oriented towards the busy urban citizen. The primary need is time, not safety, but the same solutions can be applied, since so much time is wasted trying to reach each other in person. In the virtual world, there is no concept of distance or travel. Thus, by integrating the best parts of the electronic world with reality, we can turn wasted time into something more meaningful.

The introduction of cellular telephones made it possible to be reached almost wherever you were, but this was just a transmission through the virtual world, and not any integration. Combined with a computer and a modem, the cellular telephone could tap information from the electronic world, but that was still communication, not integration. Personal integration, on the other hand, would mean that you get more specific and accurate information. The server computer would know more specifically what you need to know, and the result would be presented to you in a way more suited for the task.

Our idea is to take two particular aspects of this integration, namely vision and position, and use the present technological possibilities to make integration as efficient and simple as possible, particularly for the group of our choice: the busy urban citizen. We have investigated how this kind of integration could be used in a system for more general information.

The Development Process

The development of the product has proceeded through several major changes and improvements. The normal procedure for each step has been: Our experience is that the evolutionary development of the project was quite impossible to predict at the beginning.

The Development

The process from the first sketches to the final product follows a curved path, which is described in this section.

The InSight

This is the presentation of the project result, including physical design and interface considerations.


The InSight is a new way of integrating visual experiences and electronic information about the physical surroundings. It can display information about the present view without any timeconsuming and futuristic analysis of the actual picture.

The InSight is also a way of revealing your own position to someone else, making it possible not only to easily calculate a physical path from one point to another, but also to display directional information about where to go, at every instant. The revealing of your position can also be used to supply any system concerned with your wellbeing with the necessary information to warn you about dangerous places.

The InSight is also a way of presenting fairly large amounts of information, textual and graphical, without using a large display. It can also be used to enter small amounts of text without connection to a keyboard.

Group members

Electronic mail address, education and main subjects of responsibility.

Various information sources

Sven Trebard Gothefors <>