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Mp3Car's Sean Clark on 'Why Tablets?'

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  • Mp3Car's Sean Clark on 'Why Tablets?'

    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.
    Last edited by Enforcer; 10-17-2011, 05:07 PM.

  • #2
    lol, what did enforcer edit out?

    i don't really think that the "black box" will ever get created for tablets. overall, the general population has no need for it. it seems that as of lately, any device that most people have a real desire to connect their tablet to has a wifi connection it's self. and in general, people seem to be pushing harder for a 'cable-less' computer, so i believe that further limits the possibilities of tablet makers working on a external i/o box that is hardwired to the unit-- or even a i/o box that gets a wifi connection seems a bit of a stretch...
    My OLD 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT:
    "The Project That Never Ended, until it did"

    next project? subaru brz
    carpc undecided


    • #3
      Originally posted by soundman98 View Post
      lol, what did enforcer edit out?.

      Links and references to porno village.

      Nah j/king.

      Whatever they use to do these threads (I suspect the blog software) makes some characters into html readable codes which don't work in thread titles.

      In this case the why tblets was surronded by double quotes (or should have been) but had " instead, so I just edited them to be single quotes.

      There was a previous occasion where a thread title had character codes in it which prevented it from being viewed.


      • #4
        and there's also the small issue where the (readmore) vb code prevents the texts from being visible unless quoting the post...
        My OLD 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT:
        "The Project That Never Ended, until it did"

        next project? subaru brz
        carpc undecided


        • #5
          I'm loving the tablet in my car, I never bit the bullet to put a pc in my car, mainly due to the boot times.
          The tablet was almost a direct swap for the stock stereo, I didn't have to run extra cables or worry about cooling options or power filters.
          But tablets are still missing some features
          - steering wheel controls
          - bluetooth headset for your phone
          - radio ?
          So long as you're willing to live without those it's a great alternative.

          I would say the customization is about the same. As for the the apps available, apps written for CarPCs are restricted to CarPCs, whereas most of the apps I've purchased for my tablet were not intended for a Car Tablet, they were just also handy for the car, so they probably have a larger market.
          Android Tablet In-Car Sliding Dock using hacked DVD drive


          • #6
            I agree 100% with Sean; the tablet is the future. However there are limitations (which can be mitigated).

            The one point that seems lost here is that in order for the car pc to grow in popularity it must leverage smartphones (if not tablets). People already have these devices and want to use them. Garmin is a dead concept. I can do everything on my Droid. My next "bike PC" will be on Android and use a Droid as an interface.

            This alone doesn't address the need for peripherals that the tablet can't access directly. But my solution to that problem involves a second embedded (hardwired) SBC that communicates with the tablet UI via web services. I have a Phidget SBC connected to everything physical. I have a VIA P820 in a 1-DIN shell that is overkill. I am planning to replace it with a 7" tablet (modified and in an enclosure). I will use the SBC services to complete the connections.

            To be fair, my setup is a bit different; infotainment is a secondary concern. My main focus is on safety.

            David Falkenstein
            Cohesive Technology - seamless is everything


            • #7
              Has the definition of "Tablet" changed recently? I saw this thread and thought, "Oh there must be a newly released PC Tablet that I don't know of, how interesting?" Then I read the first post. I realize that the younger crowd has totally ignored the PC Tablet market, but there have been several significant advances that were actually first implemented in the TabletPC market before the display markets or Android or iOS. To ignore the Tablet PC when refering to "tablet" is ignoring 90% of the history of the term.

              The advantage of the new "Tablets" are undeniable thanks to the relentless marketing. Yet, I've had a front-lit transflexive screen (direct sunlight only makes it brighter) since we were creating our own because the only ones on the market were too expensive. Tablet PC screens exist with any of the features you listed, they're a niche market much like the CarPC so you don't hear a lot about them. And since many of them have been around a while, the prices on used or refurbished Tablet PCs of any size or capability are competitive if not cheaper. The benefits of the Android and iOS markets do not go unnoticed by the Tablet PC developers, but to say CarPC software development is 6/10 of a percent that of Android is misleading. How much of that Android market is useful in the CarPC realm, I'd bet 7/10 of a percent. Sure they have all the pretty graphics in apps of every imaginable use, but are they realistically useful in the CarPC environment. Is there an Android front-end, yet? I haven't bothered to see.

              It still dumbfounds me that the portability of these type systems is such a low priority. I chose a Tablet integration specifically for portability. Three cars, each with Tablet docks, each has the same basic set of peripherals so one tablet actually works the same in each car. Some unintentional benefits, playlists resume right where I left off, regardless of which vehicle I'm in; nav favorites/tracking are not vehicle specific; TPMS transmitter/receivers sync effortlessly even with different thresholds; with my multi-vehicle experience, I developed my CarPC in a bag for rental cars, trains, and aircraft use. And lets not forget, when I arrive at my destination, I undock and have my PC with me anywhere I go, be it my favorite fishing hole, a friend or relative's home, a beach in Waikiki, or a villa in Santorini.

              All the drawbacks mentioned above do not exist in the Tablet PC arena. My Tablet installs all have docking stations so cabling is not an issue. One of my cars has as many as 12 USB peripherals with 4 additional open USB ports for passengers. Wifi and bluetooth are internal to the Tablet. One of my cars has a Boomzbox FM and the other has Directed HD so FM is covered. Cooling, power filters, startup/shutdown are actually easier to handle with a Tablet PC build.

              Don't get me wrong, I recognize this hobby is headed in that direction no matter how much we old guys resist. And I look forward to the advances the new systems will bring to our hobby. The implementation is still young, i.e., the Android and iOS tablets have a ways to go to catch up to the Tablet PC, but I'm confident it will happen.
              HARDWARE: Fujitsu Stylistic ST5111w/WiFi and dock, internal Hitachi 500G HD, external 1TB HD, Sierra Wireless Aircard 550, DVD-RW, BoomzBox HD radio, XM Commander, Delorme GPS, Saitek X-52 Pro joystick, BluSoleil Bluetooth, TPMS, FB, Elm327


              • #8
                HARDWARE: Fujitsu Stylistic ST5111w/WiFi and dock, internal Hitachi 500G HD, external 1TB HD, Sierra Wireless Aircard 550, DVD-RW, BoomzBox HD radio, XM Commander, Delorme GPS, Saitek X-52 Pro joystick, BluSoleil Bluetooth, TPMS, FB, Elm327


                • #9
                  interesting comment on Fujitsu Stylistic ST5111 on cnet

                  Cons: You can't read the screen even in full sunlight.

                  : )


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by maxthebuilder View Post
                    interesting comment on Fujitsu Stylistic ST5111 on cnet

                    Cons: You can't read the screen even in full sunlight.

                    : )
                    Keep in mind there are 4 versions of this Tablet, only one is front-lit transflexive. Fujitsu used to have a definitive numbering methodology, but that went out the windows (no pun intended) around the 5011/5021 era. Now they all say 5111, but use added numbers and letter on the manufacturer label on the back to discriminate the tablets feature set: 10 in indoor, 10 in outdoor, 12 in indoor, 12 in indoor/outdoor. Only the 10 in outdoor has the transflexive front-lit screen like mine.
                    HARDWARE: Fujitsu Stylistic ST5111w/WiFi and dock, internal Hitachi 500G HD, external 1TB HD, Sierra Wireless Aircard 550, DVD-RW, BoomzBox HD radio, XM Commander, Delorme GPS, Saitek X-52 Pro joystick, BluSoleil Bluetooth, TPMS, FB, Elm327


                    • #11
                      Not sure if it's been mentioned here but I thought this little piece of hardware may interest those thinking of adopting an android tablet into a vehicle -

                      It's called IOIO


                      These are it's main features -

                      48 total I/O pins - all of which can function as digital inputs and outputs.
                      Up to 16 analog inputs (10-bit).
                      Up to 9 PWM outputs.
                      Up to 4 UART channels.
                      Up to 3 SPI channels.
                      Up to 3 TWI (IC-compatible) channels.
                      On-board switch-mode regulator providing up to 1.5A of 5V supply. Can charge the Android device as well as power a couple of small motors.
                      Bootloader on the board pulls firmware off phone, enabling OTA firmware upgrades and application-specific firmware.
                      Pulse-width measurement, capacitance sensing and more (will be pushed with first OTA firmware upgrade).

                      It means you can create an android app that can control things (such as HVAC) and display inputs.

                      Here is a video of the IOIO controlling a servo motor (could be used for temperature control I suppose)

                      Last edited by mistareno; 10-18-2011, 10:20 PM.


                      • #12
                        ^^^ That is very interesting.

                        What I'd like to see would be a wireless connection (Bluetooth or Wifi) to things like fusion brain and CarPC joy con ex. I mean, why reinvent the Fusion Brain/CarPC JoyCon if all you need is a wireless interface and a software? Interface with softare like tasker (crazy automation on Android there) and you half way through.

                        That's the second best thing for a black box would be a generic USB to Bluetooth interface...But it's maybe even harder than I think.
                        Worklogs: 08 Sequoia Platinum Carputer (In Progress!)
                        Skin: MetroSex on the Beach preview

                        07 Infiniti Fx35 (done!) & 06 Infiniti M35 (gone...)


                        • #13
                          Why not something like the Car/Droid solution from Bybyte? This is an integrated tablet within a double din space.


                          • #14
                            Sounds great for people that don't care about high end audio

                            Major drawback I see to tablets/etc are the lack of PCI card usage.

                            Until someone releases a REAL 8-10 channel USB sound card I will pass.

                            Why? Simple. The sheer fact that I built a $400 mini-itx based car pc that replaces $6000 in high end/pro-audio gear for my gear. Priceless.

                            A tablet would ONLY enhance the display for me, not the functionality or certainly the price.

                            What NEEDS to happen is the release of a real transflective/capacitive multi-touch display for the 12v market. My guess is these are or will show up soon via the OEMs as most cars are showing up with touchscreen everything now a days.

                            As for cooling/power/etc....If you can't figure that out how the hell could you figure out how to cram 10 lbs of crap into a 1 lbs bucket (i.e. customizing dash via fiberglass/etc for a "large" tablet integration)?? Answer: As the article states, by the time you paid (assuming of course YOU don't have the skills) to have it done for you, you are well past the price point of an "old" carputer with half the functionality imho.

                            Good times.


                            • #15
                              ^ audio-wise, i am in the same boat(use the carpc for active audio processing), but for the overall forum, the new tablets cover 80-90% of what everyone needs a carpc to do.

                              at this point, i believe they are more viable options then the pc tablets of before-- the smaller overall profile allows for easier installations(yes gizmo, i think your tablet install is too large for most), and because everything is included, makes for less of a per-piece cost, and less assembly issues..
                              My OLD 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse GT:
                              "The Project That Never Ended, until it did"

                              next project? subaru brz
                              carpc undecided