SoftKinetic’s Gesture Controls Making Their Way to Vehicles

Man driving one-handed

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Our automotive vehicles are growing up, at least when it comes to technology. Today’s cars include hands-free communication systems, inline navigation and media panels, assistive cameras and sensors, and much more. Heck, there are even vehicles on the road now that will drive themselves. Gesture controls seem to be the next step.

It doesn’t really come as a shock then that vehicles with hand gesture support will turn up later this year. SoftKinetic, a Belgian video company based out of Brussels that produces sensors for the Playstation 4 and various Intel devices, has put together a unique system that allows drivers to operate a vehicle using hand and finger gestures.

How Do Gesture Controls Work?

To offer an example, drivers could move their hand in a swiping motion from left to right to change music tracks or radio channels. Other controls include twirling a finger in a circular motion to turn up the volume or pointing to open a digital map of your current location.

SoftKinetic is working with Delphi Automotive to install the gesture control system in a production vehicle, which should be available sometime this year. Although the General Manager for North America at SoftKinetic, Tim Droz says the technology will be going into a vehicle, he has not identified which make or model it will be. It will certainly be interesting to see who is working with the company to get this technology inside their automobiles.

Why Is This Happening?

Car manufacturers are struggling to meet the current market demand, which calls for today’s cars to function similarly to smartphones. Technology has become a huge part of our daily lives, and it’s starting to become necessary in places you wouldn’t normally expect it to be – such as the family vehicle. The problem with this is that more tech being implemented in vehicles, means less time drivers are spending paying attention to the roadways. As Droz says, “You’re so constrained in what you can do, you want to keep the driver focused on the road and not playing with technology.”

Unlike Microsoft’s Kinect, SoftKinetic’s tech will work fine in direct sunlight and pitch-black darkness. In addition, the system can detect even the slightest hand gestures and identify them correctly. This is a stark contrast to the Kinect which requires sweeping gestures and rather obvious movements.

The sensor in question actually measures the time it takes for infrared light to bounce off a nearby surface, which is what allows it to be more precise in measuring movements.

What Does This Mean For Drivers?

The idea for SoftKinectic’s proposed tech is not to replace traditional controls or voice commands, however, but instead to work alongside them in tandem. As Droz says, voice and speech recognition tech can be distracted by surrounding noise, like that coming from screaming children. The gesture controls would be a great alternative in situations like that, where you could simply shift your hand to call upon your vehicle’s controls.

That said, Droz says his company’s technology will primarily rely on an extensive software database that allows the device to identify a multitude of gestures. Of course, lewd gestures won’t be included in that database. Perhaps, throwing your fist in the air will allow you to honk your horn?

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