GPS Flashlight Shows You The Way

The humble flashlight gets a serious makeover.

The flashlight is a staple technology in any home or business–- and it hasn't changed much in the century since it was invented. It helps you see where you're going, and so far that's all it did.

Now, inventor Sriranjan Rasakatla has decided to make flashlights smarter. He's linked a laser pico projector with a Global Positioning System unit. When on, the flashlight projects a map onto the ground in front the user, showing him where he is and the location of nearby landmarks.

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But this simple flashlight can do something more than many GPS devices. It can assign "weights" to different routes, depending on the conditions the user sets. That is, if you're on an unfamiliar college campus at night, instead of requestiung a route that's the shortest - which might lead you into poorly lit areas - you can request the best-lit route. Or, conversely, during the day and under a hot sun, you can request the path that gives the most shade.

Absent a GPS signal, the flashlight will home in on magnetic north, which can be useful indoors. The flashlight can also detect its own orientation.

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Rasakatla said he went with a laser projection system because it offered good contrast and less power draw than LED-based designs. They also ran cooler. "Some LEDs (10-15W) got so hot running at 4 volts drawing close to 3 amps of current that they could leave a burn if you accidentally touched them," he wrote in an email.

Of course even with all of these cool functions it still works like an ordinary flashlight, bringing light to dark areas.

Image: Sriranjan Rasakatla