Author: Matthew Guy - www.driving.ca
Touchscreens have proliferated in modern vehicles, offering a great deal of functionality while gathering fingerprints like so much kudzu on a Kansas cabin. Engineers at Jaguar Land Rover have teamed with the boffins at Cambridge University to develop what seems like a contradiction in terms: a touchless touchscreen.
Touted as a way to cut driver distraction and, in these pandemic times, reduce the spread of bacteria, the patented technology is officially called 'predictive touch' by its development team. The tech uses artificial intelligence to determine the item the user intends to select on the screen early in the pointing task, speeding up the interaction.
A gesture-tracker uses vision-based or radio frequency-based sensors to combine contextual information – such as user profile, interface design and environmental conditions – with data available from an eye-gaze tracker to infer the user's intent. In essence, all these sensors will pick up the movement of your arm and attempt to predict the command you're about to hammer into the touchscreen.
Uneven or poor road surfaces, of which we have plenty in this country, can cause bumps and vibrations that make it difficult to select the correct virtual button on a touchscreen. The lack of tactility in such an interaction doesn't help either. This is why your car review experts at Driving.ca regularly give cheers and hurrahs to any vehicle that retains a few physical buttons for audio and ventilation commands.
Interestingly, the company describes the product as a film, indicating that it could be readily rolled out and installed on existing infotainment screens. Software changes would also be required of course, a notion addressed by the development team. They claim both the film and software can be deployed so long as the correct sensory data is available to support the machine learning algorithm.
While we firmly believe there are few good substitutes for a physical button or dial, and that a few members of staff regularly use gestures in their cars which may not be recognized and indeed offend JLR's new system, it's difficult to argue with their point that such a setup can reduce the spread of germs.
Perhaps they'll apply it to self-checkouts at the supermarket.
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