Gesture controlsWink if you want to turn on your radio

Audio system and infotainment maker Harman is working on new technology that would allow drivers to control certain vehicle functions through gestures such as nods, winks, and hand signs.

Harman says the technology would serve to alleviate certain distractions while behind the wheel, and a prototype car that employs the system could be ready for use in as little as two years. News agency ANI says the technology uses infra-red sensors placed throughout the vehicle to read gestures and relay them to a computer.

There are already several functions being looked at by Harman. For instance, users could control the sound system by nodding to the left to turn the volume up, and nodding to the right to turn the volume down. Air conditioning and heating could be controlled by raising and lowering your hand near the shifter.

Drivers could even answer their cell phone by holding up a pinky-and-thumb “lifting the receiver” gesture.

“It’s all about reducing distractions in the car,” Hans Roth, director of technology at Harman, told the U.K.’s Daily Mail. “If you don’t have to take your hands off the wheel or look down then it’s obviously safer. The first one we worked on uses hand gestures and facial recognition so things like a wink or a nod or even a tilt of the head.

Roth said the company is still testing out a list of gestures and is aiming to create a list that can be used worldwide.

“We’ve started it and now it’s about choosing the right gestures and getting it to production,” Roth said. “You’ve got to make sure it’s culturally acceptable. In Italy for example drivers use hand gestures a lot when they drive so it needs finalizing.”

Harman has also considered the possibility of accidental gestures, and says the technology is able to differentiate between something like an accidental blink and a wink by the length of time of the action.


July 26, 2012