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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
MP3 players could boast sat-nav
Teenager listening to music
MP3 players could give listeners a "nudge" towards areas of interest
Computer scientists are hoping to add GPS satellite navigation technology to hand-held music devices like MP3s, to help guide pedestrians around cities.

Walkers could programme a destination into a device and be directed there while listening to songs.

If headed the right way, music would play from both headphones, but shifting volume to different ears could indicate a change in direction.

Swansea and Glasgow universities have had funding for the three-year project.

Researchers say the technology could be developed to allow users to personalise the system.

If they were in an unfamiliar town or city and had an interest in art galleries, the device could give them 'a nudge' to alert them one was nearby.

The nudge would either be a physical tap or vibration from the device
Dr Matt Jones

The system's prototype was developed by Dr Matt Jones, a senior lecturer at Swansea University's department of computer science, while he was working in New Zealand.

He has now had funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to develop the idea further with colleagues in Scotland.

Dr Jones said: "Normally, when we listen to music through headphones, we do so to shut the world out. This system allows the world to seep in when users let it.

"We are particularly interested in redefining how people interact with computers, and how we can make computers more actively responsive to their needs.

"So we're looking at how we can use the music people are listening to in order to prompt them to take notice of things that might be of interest to them.

"For instance, if your handheld device knows that the user likes art galleries, it can give a 'nudge' when they're in the vicinity of a gallery."

He added: "The nudge would either be a physical tap or vibration from the device, or it could be given audibly by changing the balance of the music being listened to.

"If the user decides to follow the cues to see what the device thinks is of interest, the system will then guide them to the destination.

"And if users ignore the hints, the device will stop nudging, until it comes across something else of potential interest."

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