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Mp3Car's Sean Clark on "Why Tablets?"

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by , 10-17-2011 at 04:56 PM (16049 Views)

Our resident nerd and car computer enthusiast, Sean Clark, won't shut up about tablets. Not a day goes by that he isn't half-rambling on about the potential benefits of integrating a tablet into his already tech-laden vehicle. So, if for no other reason than to give Sean the opportunity to get it out of his system, I thought I'd ask him a few pointed questions about why this tablet trend is going to be so... well, trendy. Here is Sean Clark, in his own words (and even and interjection by Rob Wray).

CAP: Why tablets? What benefits do they offer someone that are above and beyond a car computer?

SC: Off the top of my head, I can think of three big reasons:
a) The screen. You can spend over $1000 and still not get a screen that's as dreamy to touch as a tablet. All of these tablets have glass, capacitive (more on this below), multi-touch displays that have a coating to keep your finger happy. All of these CarPC displays are resistive (more on this below), plasticy, and single touch. There are SOME that are multi touch, and some that are capacitive, but it's inferior technology that cannot compare.
b) The Price. Tablets can cost as little as $600 for a fully functional computer plus a multi-touch screen. That same package is gonna run you close to $800 and you will still have to run a ton of wires.
c) The Software. Software on CarPC's is always growing and always developing. But the market for car PC developers is maybe .6% the size of the Android market, and an even lower percentage of the iOS developer market. You just get access to way more apps and way more customization to the user's liking when you go android.

Rob - I'm not so sure that stat is accurate - and the car PC developers may disagree.

Sean - Well, it's true that there are many more apps, but they may not necessarily be car centric. Rob - I can agree with that. There is just no "front-end" glue holding it all together. Very similar to the Car PC market in the late 90s. A bunch of random software with no glue.

CAP: What are the differences in the monitor and touch screen? Why would this be particularly helpful in a vehicle?

SC: A normal car PC touchscreen is between 7 and 10 inches, is 'resistive,' and single touch. Resistive by definition means that you have to contact 2 layers together at a point to create the touch input. That means you will, on some level, feel the 2 layers. That gives the screen a softer feeling. Which is actually bad. Softer screen means more friction, which means more heat your finger generates when trying to swipe and gesture. Which brings me to my second point: gestures. CarPCs aren't really geared towards gestures. Because the screen is so "one touch," the software and displays are designed to treat "your finger as a mouse." Tablets have been designed to treat your finger(s) as a NEW input device. This means that you're expected to swipe and make gestures with one or more fingers.

Let's take scrolling for example. On a car PC, you would tap down and up arrow buttons. But on a tablet, you just swipe up and down, a much more natural interface for the user to use, and the displays make this all possible for tablets.

CAP: How would you integrate one into a car? What size would you need?

SC: The biggest challenge one faces when installing a tablet into the car is the fact that they don't conform to any auto standards. A lot of cars generally have a double DIN-sized opening (or close to that) which a 7 inch display can be fabricated into. That is to say - the 7 inch screen can be taken apart, and is now SMALLER than the double din size, which means it can be built in. A 7 inch tablet cannot be taken apart. So the bezel on the tablet will make the tablet BIGGER than the double DIN-sized opening. Therefore you will need CUSTOM installation for a tablet. So if you can't blow fiberglass or weld metal, your looking at $1200-$1,500 for a custom installation.

CAP: Where are we headed? Beyond the early adoption phase, what features do you see a tablet performing that might be exciting horizon concepts?

SC: I see room for what we call a "black box". There is still a void with tablets that car PC's still fill: connecting to hardware. Because of all the USB and serial hardware that has been created over the years, you can control your lights, engine features, remote functions, tuning and more with your car PC. None of that exists for tablets (except for the engine diagnostics). A black box would fill this void; it would interface with all of this hardware, and then translate its data to the tablet. Once this black box is made, the tablet will be able to do everything the car PC can do, including all the bells, whistles and customizations car PC hackers love.

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hey scrapmaker, have you actually tried running a pc on an android tablet through vnc? I played with this a bit even before on my phone too. it's really cool to see a whole pc desktop on your phone or tablet and be able to control it too, but it's not really the same as actually having a screen straight to the desktop. the mouse emulation makes it not work well enough that you can just use it as easily as just touching the screen, at least with the programs I've tried, but I've only tried it with stuff like gotomypc and logmein & other web based vnc's. I'm curious as to what you have in mind and if it would work more seamless. probably best to start a thread for your setup when you're ready. the only thing is, this is really about the same as a full blown carpc at that point anyway, just as complicated if not even more so, just using the tablet as a screen instead of using a screen. even so, if it works seemlessly then I would want to do it, just never found a way for it to work well enough.

Quote Originally Posted by optikalefx View Post

So we should embrace this, we should respect this, and we should innovate around this. The future of this forum lives within us to stay on top of what kind of tech people want in their cars.

so in respecting this & embracing it, what does an average android tablet install need to make it better?

we've already talked about how easy it is for the average guy to mount a tablet in at least a useful way, just getting it to work and how popular this has become, so what are the problems that remain and what can be innovated around this? more importantly who can do this?

as far as development goes, one of the drawbacks to the "easyness" of an android tablet is that it attracts the more average joe because it's easy, but the average joe most likely is not the kind of guy that can program applications either. the more conventional carpc community naturally attracts some real computer geeks who just happen to be programmers in there day job, so building some little app for a carpc is a fun hobby, the community is completely driven by the collaboration of many of these supergeeks right here on mp3car, hence much of mp3cars software & hardware integration, skinning & more developed here over the years.

what we need to develop this platform is more android developers to start to approach better integration. how do you attract more android developers? what would attract more android development?
Cool stuff.
Just figured I'd throw this out there, but with my proposed solution, you could use ANY tablet in existence... User preference... Every software ecosystem has some sort of VNC-like client, and a server that can be installed on another machine. Hell you might be able to do raw RDP--I know you can on iOS and Android. I am not sure if RDP can handle HD video playback, but there are other solutions that can. Personally I'd probably just play the HD video straight off the tablet, accessing my CarPCs' HDD over the network. For anything other than that, I'd use the CarPC.

I am hoping to have this come together in the next month. I'll have to start a thread for you guys.