Google Files Patent on Gesture Vehicle Control Technology

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News Posted: Thu, Oct 3 2013 10:22 AM
Google is apparently getting really serious about gesture control. In addition to acquiring Flutter, a San Francisco-based startup that develops gesture recognition technology, the sultan of search filed a patent application for using gestures in vehicles to perform a number of functions, such as changing the volume of music, raising or lowering the cabin temperature, and more.

The patent describes using different gestures in different parts of the vehicle. Waving your hand in front of the radio, for example, would allow you to control the audio system. The obvious upshot is that once you learn the gestures, you'd be able to change the channel, cycle through presets, and crank up the volume when a killer song comes on, all without ever taking your eyes off the road.

Google Gestures in Car

"While a user is maneuvering a vehicle, the user may wish to perform a number of additional functions, such as navigating to a destination, changing the temperature in the vehicle, or changing the volume of music playing in the vehicle. Other functions are possible as well," Google explains. "Performing these additional functions may require the user to locate and manipulate one or more controls in the vehicle. For example, in order to change the temperature in the vehicle, the user may locate a button or knob on a dashboard of the vehicle that controls a heater[...]While the user is maneuvering the vehicle, it may be difficult for the user to locate the controls. Further, it may be difficult for the user to manipulate the controls. Additionally, it may be unsafe to include controls in some regions of the vehicle that are closest to the user."

Google's solution to the above safety concerns is to implement gesture controls for all of the described functions, and more. These would be the same gestures you're used to performing on the PC and other applications, such as swiping, pointing, tapping, grasping, and pinching.

For this to work seamlessly, there would likely need to be one or more cameras in the vehicle configured to record 3D images of the gesture. In addition, Google patent application suggests that gestures needn't be limited to hands, but could also include arms, legs, or the head, as well as those same limbs on a passenger.
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CodyIrwin replied on Thu, Oct 3 2013 12:51 PM

I wouldn't trust waving my hands in the air like I just don't care to be safe. Waving your arms around would effect your driving, even if its one arm just to adjust the radio, your body becomes off balance and you already start to need effort put into keeping the car straight.

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ECouts replied on Thu, Oct 3 2013 12:51 PM

Umm, gesture control...in VEHICLES?! Did anyone stop to consider how dangerous it is to be waving around in the air when you're driving? Either someone will think you mean for them to go ahead of you by waving them along, or, heaven forbid, some idiot at Google decides to try to steer a car with gesture control.

Google, save your money and try to build something useful instead!

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Dave_HH replied on Thu, Oct 3 2013 10:01 PM

I don't know EC. This seems like a good alternative to direct control access of secondary systems in the car, so folks can keep more focused on the road.

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@CodyIrwin, @ECouts: The gesture control would come into play only when the body part (usually a hand) is near the physical control for which control is desired, say the radio volume button. Therefore, wildly waving hands or hands visible to other drivers is nothing to be concerned about.

Imagine if the sensors included Kinect 2. I can imagine things like being able to play along with the music by playing virtual drums by patting your legs or beat-boxing with your mouth, etc. A world of possibilities.

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