In the future, automated driving and connectivity will fundamentally change our entertainment options on weekend excursions. But that’s not all: in Volkswagen’s Electronics Development department, experts are working on enabling our vehicles to become personal assistants who, with the help of artificial intelligence, understand our needs. Stephanie, who is visiting her friend in Berlin, is a fictitious test person created to help developers with their work. In just a few years though, the new functions will be available to real-life customers as well.
Astrid Kassner is one of the development team’s experts for voice and gesture control. Their goal is to ensure that future vehicles understand – and carry out – wishes expressed with just a small gesture of the finger. This will be particularly important, says Kassner, when the person in a self-driving car no longer has to be responsible for steering. At that point, “we will lean back and no longer be able to reach the cockpit with our arms. So we are developing voice commands and gestures to complement touch operation via the display.”
An infrared camera captures the gestures
Already today the developer can effortlessly control the interior lighting of her cockpit model, for example, with her right hand and a few words. With swiping motions, she navigates between streaming portals and messaging options without touching the display. In tests with test subjects, the developers have had encouraging results. “Many need just a few minutes to get used to the operating concept,” says Astrid Kassner. “That certainly has something to do with the fact that we are accustomed to using similar gestures with our smartphones.”
In technical terms, gesture control utilizes an infrared camera that captures the passenger’s hand motions. “The camera is continuously measuring how long the invisible infrared rays take to travel to the person’s hand and back again. With that information, it is possible to determine the position and the motion of the hand,” explains Kassner.