A new device gives an opportunity for drivers to communicate with others on the road, in a respectful and fun manner. Few possible emojis available to display on CarWink (here in a car’s rear windshield). (Image via the CarWink Kickstarter)
Some of the daily human interactions, verbal or non-verbal, happen on the roads. Both drivers and passengers sometimes feel the need to express their opinion about other users’ behavior. Whether warranted or not the communication is not always received, and that is the problem a student of one of the most prestigious Design School in California set out to solve when he invented CarWink.
Wei Cheng Chou is a student in electrical engineering in California who created a device that allows people on the road to express themselves. Even though many times, people are inclined to cursing at each other, Chou’s device is meant only to express positive emotions. The story goes that Chou was looking for a solution to a problem he had: the frustration that comes with driving in California. In his vision, the device would even display a certain finger to express discontent or anger. Luckily, he allowed the Japanese culture of his upbringing to influence his final design, creating a device that communicates more politely.
CarWink is round in shape and the 5-inch screen displays messages using a set of 480 LED powered by a solar panel; but CarWink can also be charged using a microUSB port for days when the sunrays are shy. The messages CarWink displays are a combination of single words like “Thanks” and emojis like a smiley face; the displays are strong enough for people to view them 2 cars behind. Copying from the Nintendo and Tamagotchi games, Chou initially installed fifty images to display; but the user of CarWink is welcome to add his or her own messages. However, to maintain the integrity of the concept, Chou makes it a point to check the images from users to ensure they are positive and respectful of other people on the roads. Even with that policy, a few people still requested to add a “middle finger” emoji.
The software that makes CarWink work is an app on the driver’s smartphone which will sync with CarWink through Bluetooth. In the app, users have two options to command messages: their voices or buttons to push for the desired message. Now, that is the part that could concern transit authorities. Since CarWink requires the use of the phone while driving, it is normal to question the need for the device. Would it lead to more accidents for lack of focused attention on the road? In addition, those who have small cars might find CarWink too big of an accessory to add to their cars. In any case, CarWink is currently on Indiegogo for $92, but will later sell for $120. Meanwhile for all those who took advantage of the early bird special on Indiegogo, devices are shipping starting July of this year.
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