Anker, the makers of all things charging and accessorizing, have unveiled their own take on the nascent Augmented Driving phenomenon, called the Roav Dashtop. It's still basically a Heads-up Display (HUD) for your car that connects with your phone, yet it differs from its main competitor Navdy in a couple of important areas, not the least of which is price.
While Navdy costs $799, but still mostly uses your phone for connectivity, Roav is more of a standalone HUD computer with LTE modem and 32 GB of storage, going for $399 ($299 for the Wi-fi only model). Anker intends to use the Roav Dashtop as the base for its so-called Smart Driving System that resembles the holistic approach of bringing the information age to some modern high-end luxury vehicles like BMW or Lincoln, but on a budget.
Where Anker's Roav differs, is its version with cellular connectivity, allowing it to operate much more independently from your phone, and project real-time traffic info anywhere with coverage. If you purchase the 4G model, you will get three months of Verizon LTE on the house, and afterwards you can continue the subscription for $9.99 a month. Alternatively, you can opt for the $299 Wi-fi variant, and use your phone for cellular connectivity.
The devil is in the details, though, and the Dashtop uses a voice-controlled "driving assistant" powered by Nuance for commands and navigation, disregarding ambient noise. You can ask it to read or send messages, change the navigation endpoint, or play some music from your phone, and follow through on the clear display in front of you. Still, the Dashtop also has a "steering wheel mounted glance-free controller," which sounds a whole lot like the knob that Navdy offers so you can navigate the interface the oldfashioned way with your thumb while driving, instead of using voice or gestures. The device is powered by your car's OBD port, so it can also display info like speed, RPM, and the like.
Some other intriguing tech details include a "heatproof Li-pol battery," which is important for something that will sit on your dash during a hot summer day, and USB-C connectivity. The Roav Dashtop also sports two "high-quality" speakers, and dual mics for noise cancellation duties., as well as accellerometer, gyro and ambient light sensors, plus a GPS chip. On the software side, the ROAV Dashtop ROM is based on Android, and, naturally, there is an app store planned for it.
Such HUDs used to be pretty futuristic, but the Roav Dashtop seems to be a good tradeoff between what goes on in the helmet of an F-35 pilot, and how you can get a similar experience for three Benjamins in your old clunker ($25 less if you refer a friend). The fly in the ointment is that the 4G version ships for in the spring for US only, while those in Canada and the UK waiting on it or the Wi-fi only model, will have to wait for next summer. Preorders are live at the link below, though, so head over if you like what you see in Roav's promo clip at the top.