Where Would You be Without GPS?

Perhaps carrying fewer gadgets: The technology is being added to shoes, MP3 players, even dogs ...

By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe Staff | February 19, 2007

To the true technophile, personal digital devices are more anatomy than accessory, and the physical world is kind of a nuisance. A simple trip to the mall can be a distraction: You actually have to look up from your screen. Consumer electronics makers seem determined to change that.

Over the past two years, location-awareness technology has been spreading from hand-held digital compasses onto cellphones, laptops, dashboards, and even dog collars, often to comedic effect.

This month, GTX Corp. launched a line of Xplorer Smart GPS shoes that transform sneakers into a wearable LoJack system. Late last year, designer Isaac Daniel introduced a limited-edition GPS shoe, complete with a built-in distress button.

RoamEO for Pets began shipping units this month that transform up to three dogs frolicking in the backyard into moving paws on a radar screen; GPS giant Garmin International Inc. makes a version, too, called the Astro GPS Dog Tracking System.

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. has built a GPS accessory for its PlayStation Portable, currently available only in Japan, that allows game players to careen their cars into the side of a building, then flip to driving directions and safely steer to a grocery store.

The iRiver W10, an MP3 and video player coming this spring, will use technology developed by a Boston company to help "urban explorers" find nearby restaurants or shops -- without having to look away from the music video in their palm.

What exactly is the rationale behind this wide range of products?

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