Once hailed as a breakthrough technology, the coronavirus pandemic may now spell the death-knell for the touch-screen era as car giant Jaguar Land Rover pioneers new ‘touch-free’ contactless screens to help fight the spread of the virus.
New patented ‘predictive touch’ technology, developed by the Britain’s biggest car-maker in conjunction with Cambridge University scientists, uses artificial intelligence and sensors to control in-car ‘infotainment’ systems without occupants needing to physically touch the screen.
Jaguar Land Rover says it ‘offers dual benefit of keeping drivers’ eyes on the road and reducing spread of bacteria and viruses in post Covid-19 world’.
Can’t touch this! Jaguar Land Rover and Cambridge University have patented a new touch-free screen system for cars, so motorists don’t need to handle a surface thus preventing the spread of Covid-19
The clever system would control the car’s on-board computer system and allow people to change the radio station, alter the heating and check the Sat Nav
As fingers do not physically touch the screens, it lessens the chances of the coronavirus spreading by contact on hard surfaces, like those found in vehicle dashboards and screens, especially if families, friends or business colleagues share cars.
It also reduces the need for vehicles to be sanitised between users.
Lab-tests and on-road trials reveal time and effort needed to use a touchscreen can be reduced by up to 50 per cent, it adds.
The car giant said that with the virus set to be around for years to come, such technology will help motorists adapt to the ‘new normal’.
The patented technology, known as ‛predictive touch’, uses artificial intelligence and sensors to predict a user’s intended target on the touchscreen – whether that’s satellite navigation, temperature controls or entertainment settings – without touching a button.
The pioneering system, developed with engineers at the highly-acclaimed university, is part of Jaguar Land Rover’s Destination Zero vision – a desire to make its vehicles safer and the environment cleaner and healthier.
Jaguar Land Rover said: ’In the ‘new normal’ once lockdowns around the world are lifted, a greater emphasis will be placed on safe, clean mobility where personal space and hygiene will carry premiums.
‘New contactless touchscreen technology developed by Jaguar Land Rover and the University of Cambridge will help keep drivers’ eyes on the road and reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses in a post Covid-19 world.’
How do touchless screens work?
The technology uses machine intelligence to determine the item the user intends to select on the screen.
It does this early in the pointing task, speeding up the interaction.
It uses a gesture tracker, including vision-based or RF-based sensors, which are increasingly common in consumer electronics.
Contextual information is also taken into account to improve accuracy.
For example, information on who the person is, interface design, environmental conditions and data available from other sensors, such as an eye-gaze tracker, are also processed.
Jaguar Land Rover said its vehicles are already designed to help improve passenger ‘well-being’ with cleaner cabin air and pollution filters to screen out particles and pollen for allergy sufferers: ‘New technology like predictive touch is another step forward.’
Jaguar Land Rover said: ‘Lab-tests and on-road trials showed the predictive touch technology could reduce a driver’s touchscreen interaction effort and time by up to 50%, as well as limiting the spread of bacteria and viruses.’
There is also a wider safety benefits, it adds: ‘Uneven or poor road surfaces can often cause vibrations that make it difficult to select the correct button on a touchscreen. This means drivers must take their attention away from the road, increasing the risk of an accident. ‘
The new contactless technology uses artificial intelligence to work out exactly where a driver or passenger’s pointing finger would hit, if they intended to touch the screen. It then completes the selection for them, without the finger actually making contact with the screen.
The firm explained that a ‘gesture tracker’ uses vision-based or radio frequency-based sensors, which are increasingly common in consumer electronics.
The car’s electronic ‘brain’ then puts this into context, using other key information such as the habits of the driver, the weather, road conditions and so on to ‘work out’ logically where the pointed finger is most likely heading.
The electronic brain’s ‘artificial intelligence’ also checks against data available from other sensors, such as an ‘eye-gaze tracker’ to infer –in real time – the user’s intentions. In short, which bit of the touchscreen the driver would be pressing.
It then jumps in to make the command or choice before the finger makes contact – rem.
Other car firms are also working on similar gesture recognition technologies, including BMW who announced its own version last year but Jaguar land Rover says this patented system is far more complex and superior
The technology is going to be available in the brand’s most tech-orientated models. None are more advanced that the electric Jaguar I-Pace
Range Rover models will also benefit from the system, which should resist the spread of germs
Lee Skrypchuk, a human-machine interface specialist at Jaguar Land Rover, said: ‘Predictive touch technology eliminates the need to touch an interactive display and could therefore reduce the risk of spreading bacteria or viruses on surfaces.
‘As countries around the world exit lockdown, we notice how many everyday consumer transactions are conducted using touchscreens. This ranges from railway or cinema tickets, ATMs, airport check-ins and supermarket self-service checkouts, as well as many industrial and manufacturing applications. ‘
He added: ‘The technology also offers us the chance to make vehicles safer by reducing the cognitive load on drivers and increasing the amount of time they can spend focused on the road ahead.’
JLR said that new software was at the heart of the contactless breakthrough.
So it could be ‘seamlessly integrated into existing touchscreens and interactive displays’, provided the correct sensory data is also available to support the machine learning.
Professor Simon Godsill from Cambridge University’s Department of Engineering, who led the project, said: ‘Touchscreens and other interactive displays are something most people use multiple times per day, but they can be difficult to use while in motion, whether that’s driving a car or changing the music on your phone while you’re running.
‘We also know that certain pathogens can be transmitted via surfaces, so this technology could help reduce the risk for that type of transmission.’
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