Home Articles Automotive third eye for connectivity, convenience, and safety

Automotive third eye for connectivity, convenience, and safety

Automotive third eye for connectivity, convenience, and safety

Vallabha Hampiholi Principal Engineer, Lifestyle Acoustics Division (Infotainment) HARMAN India


Entertainment and connectivity options that can be controlled through gestures, and systems that can read your facial features, opens up new avenues for in-vehicle rear seat infotainment. With a wide range of audio and video entertainment options now available in a vehicle, a journey is now a multimedia experience with audio and video and wireless radio access, and even Internet while on the move. Much of the control is retained with the driver, and this has progressively moved from physical controls on the dashboard to a touch-screen, to controls on the steering wheel, and finally to voice activation.

Most of these innovations have been focused on making the driver’s seat the primary control centre, leaving the rear seat passengers with limited control over audio or video content. While a wireless remote control offered the backseat passenger direct access to the control systems, it would mean controlling the music or video within the entire automobile. Touch screens and jogger dials were also offered, but would often require the rear seat passenger to physically reach out and change the station or content, compromising their comfort.

There has been significant innovation in gesture-based control in the consumer durable segment. Televisions, for example; and it was a matter of time before this came into the automotive segment. Engineers have been researching and developing prototype solutions using the Computer Vision technology for automobiles. This is essentially a display system with smart cameras, which uses facial recognition to identify the user, pull up a stored profile, and show preferred content customised to each screen – and allow the user to control playback through gestures.

Imagine a father and child travelling in chauffeured automobile. The screen in front of the adult would display a news channel, while the younger one would be occupied with a cartoon show. A simple gesture in front of the camera would change the channel, pause, rewind or skip forward, ensuring that the viewer can access the controls in the most convenient way and interact with their preferred content. With this level of facial recognition, playback could pause when the viewer looks away; it can adjust screen brightness based on ambient lighting, and also pause or switch to a different display – based on the gesture – when there is an incoming call on a paired phone. Parental controls too can be activated, to ensure that only suitable content is displayed to underage viewers.

The Computer Vision system uses the inputs from two cameras to source a visual input and interpret the gesture based on the content that is being displayed. This level of independent intelligence effectively makes the screen a zone that will react to gestures within a certain visual capture area. This means that with two screens facing the rear passengers, each of the screens can be operated independently, and the content displayed on each of them can be different. The automobile manufacturing sector is already showing interest in this, making it an infortainment technology that could transform the automobile of tomorrow, albeit electronically and electrically.

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