Dashboard-mounted navigation systems from Garmin and TomTom seem to mostly be marketed to middle-aged suburbanites. Commercials extolling how easy it is to run errands when using a nav system do little to excite the geek in most anybody. Nav systems are great (I can barely find the end of my street without mine), but personalization options failed to make dash-mounted nav systems a true geek tech toy. I even cracked one open a few years ago, and I still didn't feel like it was very geeky (though running it over with the car was loads of fun).
Makers and marketers of navigation units have finally realized that geeks like to be entertained and that even the most useful item can be a fun toy to our ilk. Let the "our unit is more geeky-cool than your unit" battle begin!
First, Garmin came out with a Yeti voice. While this was intended more as a winter-themed item, geeks really like the Yeti because it makes us think of World of Warcraft. Still, that only gets about 1.5 out of five geek stars. TomTom has raised the stakes in capturing the geek market by going even geekier with its Star Wars nav unit voices.
Now you can be lured to the dark side, err... your destination... by Darth Vader. Or learn the mysteries of the Force while Yoda guides your physical and your spiritual navigation. (TomTom even released a "behind the scenes" video of Yoda's recording session.) C-3PO is also available, though reluctant, to give driving directions. (Han Salo will be available later this month.) Of course nothing with the Star Wars name is free — each voice is available for purchase ($12.95 USD) via the TomTom website. I give the Star Wars voices for TomTom navigation units four out of five geek stars.
As the battle to sell the most navigation units heats up in time for the holiday shopping season, there are other popular voices from the geek canon that I think GPS makers should consider:
- Ash from Evil Dead - "Hail to the navigator, baby" and "This is your RIGHT TURN!"
- GLaDOS from Portal - "There is cake at your destination." But would she really get you there safely?
- HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey: Instead of saying "Recalculating," the HAL 9000 voice would say, "It can only be attributable to human error."
- Captain Kirk from Star Trek: "Arriving at the final frontier, on the left."
- Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: Patrick Stewart has a great voice, so any direction would sound good coming from him.
Will you buy a TomTom device to get the Star Wars voices? If you already have a nav unit, will you upgrade to TomTom from another brand just to get the Star Wars voices? I had a pretty good laugh imagining the voice options. Share your suggestions in the comments.Sign up for the Geekend newsletter
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Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conducting science experiments at home. Nicole has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Transylvania University, and has experience in copywriting for education, print, business, and the web. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter via @HuTerra.