Camping
TrekAce points you in the right direction, keeps your hands free

Handheld navigation devices, which include smartphones these days, have been around for a long time. But one of their disadvantages is that they have to be held in the hand, or at least mounted to something. That can be a hassle when one wants to use their hands to hold walking poles, binoculars, bike handles and other staples of outdoor activity.

TrekAce takes another approach to navigating. The water-resistant starfish-like object wraps itself around one’s forearm. A touch screen provides the usual bits of GPS-related info. But what really sets TrekAce apart is how it can use its appendages to indicate which direction one should turn. Vibrations in its different extensions can communicate going straight ahead, 90-degree and 45-degree turns and reversing. A combination can indicate moving between multiple angles. For example, if the “straight ahead” and 45-degree signals buzz, that means to take a 22-degree turn.

TrekAce uses Bluetooth LE to connect to a smartphone so that will need to nearby. The product is being offered for $259 —  a $40 discount from the expected retail price – to Indiegogo backers with a $199 super early bird special. The Portland-based developer seeks $75,000 in its Indiegogo flexible funding campaign that closes on September 15th. Backers should receive the wearable device in one of five colors in February 2016.

The price of the clever and versatile TrekAce isn’t out of line with other handheld navigation devices. However, those products don’t require a smartphone that could be endangered during outdoor activities such as skiing or (as its campaign suggests) military exercises. If it lives up to its claim of resonating with early adopters, it might make sense to create a less expensive version that, say, ditches the display, relying instead on the screen of a smartphone or smartwatch or encloses the smartphone like an armband made for jogging.

 

Arthur Tufeau is a contributor to Backerjack.