Mobile navigation support for pedestrians

The last issue of ACM Interactions is specially devoted to "gadgets". Though I won't argue about this topic name, there is an interesting paper about mobile navigation supported entitled "Mobile navigation support for pedestrians: can it work and does it pay off?" by Manfred Tscheligi, Reinhard Sefelin. If there is already a number of devices and services that support navigational tasks for drivers, the market of similar applications for pedestrians is still nascent. The authors think there is a possibility for this sort of services to work "if three prerequisites are fulfilled: consideration and integration of landmarks as a means of navigation, more and real consideration of the context of use, provision of content that goes beyond navigational information.".

The part that I am mostly interested in is the one about the fact that designers should take the user's context into consideration:

Whereas drivers of cars are mostly occupied with only one task, pedestrians usually have to complete different secondary tasks. Often the navigation is a secondary task, while the user’s primary task is the exploration of a city or of a museum. Moreover, we cannot always expect that users in complex environments (railway stations, airports, hospitals) will be able to use a mobile phone or PDA with their hands. They might be carrying luggage, which would prevent them from using a mobile phone without a hands-free set; they might not want to attract the attention of other people; or they might need their hands to use a device such as crutches. (...) Another aspect related to the users’ context is the fact that tourists and hikers often want to carry paper-based guides in their hands, which precludes the use of electronic devices

Why do I blog this? because this kind of study brings back to Earth some of the people who are designing totally tech-driven services that no pedestrian users will be able to use because of their lack of context-relevance.