There's been much written about Google's driverless car project which involves developing technology for autonomous cars. The software powering Google's future driverless cars is dubbed "Google Chauffeur." Some say the project is being geared for 2015 to 2020 time frame. Nissan has already gone out on a limb and promised a driverless car for 2017. Until such time, Apple will be introducing "iOS for the Car" in late 2014 with more than 15 car models on board their project. They also have an advanced patent for future versions of their in-vehicle system. Yet before Google enters the driverless vehicle market, they're seeking a patent for a specialized in-vehicle gestures system to control every facet of a vehicle from the stereo right down to the air conditioner and everything in between.
Google's Patent Background
In some cases, a driver of a vehicle may wish to perform a number of functions at once. For example, in addition to maneuvering the vehicle, the driver may wish to enter a navigation destination, change the temperature in the vehicle, or change the volume of music playing in the vehicle. Other functions are possible as well.
Google's Invents Specialized In-Vehicle Gestures
In one aspect, an example method is disclosed that includes maintaining a correlation between a plurality of predetermined gestures, in combination with a plurality of predetermined regions of a vehicle, and a plurality of functions, such that each gesture in the plurality of predetermined gestures, in combination with a particular region of the plurality of predetermined regions, is associated with a particular function in the plurality of functions.
The example method further includes recording three-dimensional images of an interior portion of the vehicle and, based on the three-dimensional images, detecting a given gesture in a given region of the vehicle, where the given gesture corresponds to one of the plurality of predetermined gestures and the given region corresponds to one of the plurality of predetermined regions. The example method still further includes selecting, based on the correlation, a function associated with the given gesture in combination with the given region, and initiating the function in the vehicle.
A Specialized 3D Camera Recognizes Driver Gestures
In another aspect, an example vehicle is disclosed that includes a camera configured to record three-dimensional images of an interior portion of the vehicle, at least one processor, and data storage.
The data storage includes instructions executable by the at least one processor to record three-dimensional images of an interior portion of the vehicle, and, based on the three-dimensional images, detect a given gesture in a given region of the vehicle, where the given gesture corresponds to one of the plurality of predetermined gestures and the given region corresponds to one of the plurality of predetermined regions. The instructions are further executable by the at least one processor to select, based on the correlation, a function associated with the given gesture in combination with the given region, and initiate the function in the vehicle.
Google states that a vehicle may include one or more cameras configured to record three-dimensional images. The camera(s) may include, for example, a depth camera and/or a three-dimensional laser scanner. The camera(s) may be positioned anywhere in the vehicle, such as on a ceiling of the vehicle, the dashboard of the vehicle, or the rear-view mirror of the vehicle. The camera(s) may be positioned elsewhere in the vehicle as well. In embodiments where more than one camera is used, the cameras may be positioned in different positions in the vehicle, and may record three-dimensional images from their different positions.
Google's patent FIGS. 3A, B, and C noted above illustrate an example implementation of the example method in which a gesture is used to control an air conditioning system in an example vehicle. As shown, a user is driving a vehicle which may maintain a correlation between pluralities of predetermined gestures in combination with a plurality of predetermined regions of the vehicle.
For example, the correlation may include a downward swiping gesture in a region that includes an air-conditioning vent associated with the function of decreasing a fan speed of an air conditioning system. Other examples are possible as well.
Specialized Gestures Include American Sign Language
Google further states that the predetermined gestures may include, for example, any gesture that an occupant of the vehicle may make with his or her hands, fingers, arms, legs, head, or combination thereof. The occupant could be either a driver of the vehicle or a passenger.
For instance, the predetermined gestures may include swiping, tapping, pointing, grasping, pinching, or waving gestures as well as predetermined positions and movements of hands and/or fingers, such as those used in American Sign Language. Other predetermined gestures are possible as well.
Controlling Vehicle Functions
The functions that may be controlled by Google's new system include is any function such as modifying a volume or music selection on an audio system in the vehicle, modifying a volume or content selection on an entertainment system or in-vehicle display, modifying a fan speed or temperature on an air conditioning system, heater, or climate control system in the vehicle, modifying a seat position of a seat in the vehicle, stopping, starting, or modifying a speed of windshield wipers in the car, opening, closing, or modifying a position of a window in the car, modifying a speed of a cruise control system in the vehicle, opening, closing, or modifying a position of a sunscreen in the vehicle, or opening, closing, or modifying a position of a sunroof in the vehicle. Other functions are possible as well. An example correlation is further illustrated in patent figure 5 below.
In Google's example of 4B, we see that the user may wish to turn off the vehicle's audio system. To this end, the user may make a tapping gesture in a region that includes an ear of the user.
The camera may record three-dimensional images of the tapping gesture in the region that includes the ear of the user. Okay, that one seems a little silly – but that's what Google's filing states.
Over time I'm sure that a combination of in-vehicle voice and gesture controls will eventually make their way to market from a variety of players such as Google (via Android), Apple (via iOS), Samsung (via Android and/or Tizen OS) and others.
Google's patent FIG. 1 below is a basic flowchart of the new in-vehicle gesture system.
Google filed their patent application under serial number 437730 back in Q2 2012. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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