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Speaking, interactive dashboard avatar could replace owner's manuals

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August 9, 2011

The Avatar-based Virtual Co-driver System is designed to replace a vehicle's owner's manua...

The Avatar-based Virtual Co-driver System is designed to replace a vehicle's owner's manual with an interactive video avatar

At one time not all that long ago, cars had a warning light on the dashboard that simply said "ENGINE." That's pretty vague. Really, it might just as well have said "CAR." Some newer automobiles now have codes that appear on the console, which the driver must then look up in an index in the vehicle's owner's manual. Working with Audi, Germany's Technische Universitaet Muenchen (TUM) Institute of Business Informatics is now working on taking things a step farther, with the development of an on-screen avatar that will talk to drivers, and even understand their spoken questions.

The experimental Avatar-based Virtual Co-driver System (AviCoS) is designed to work with the monitor of the Audi Mulitmedia Interface, which already comes standard on all of the automaker's vehicles.

The system uses artificial intelligence to understand drivers' spoken questions about their car, and responds verbally. Descriptive images and videos also appear on-screen, with the animated avatar character pointing out relevant details. In Touch and Tell mode, drivers can also receive explanations of various vehicle functions by touching the appropriate areas of the screen.

As with many such driver assistance technologies, there is the possibility that AviCoS could distract drivers from paying attention to the road. The designers have somewhat addressed that problem, by suppressing first the image of the avatar, and then all of the graphics, as the vehicle's speed increases. Drivers remain able to converse with the avatar, however, which could still be distracting.

Down the road, the TUM researchers would like to see the system being able to identify the driver's state of mind, by analyzing their tone of voice and speech rhythm. If AviCoS determined that the driver was getting stressed out, it could lessen their sensory overload by suppressing its video output. Working with the car's other systems, it could also do things such as instructing the navigation system to provide directions earlier, and more often.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
11 Comments

Clippy for cars. Bleagh.

justme70
9th August, 2011 @ 12:46 pm PDT

This seems way too similar to that infernal paper clip that Microsoft created.

Ingo
9th August, 2011 @ 01:19 pm PDT

What if the electrics of the car are not working (which is quite a major problem with Audi)? Now you wish you had a good old paper book with the codes in it.

Frank191
9th August, 2011 @ 02:18 pm PDT

Interesting to see how long it takes for something logical to develop in steps, now what is still to be implemented is when problems arise for the avatar(?) to tell you what to do to get the problem solved, including giving you directions to the nearest locale where said problem can be fixed. And how about letting the car do what you ask verbally? And the last step.. let the car drive itself to where you need to go. Including indicating points of interest like ´look to your left now and you will see your neighbor pulled over for DUI´ while you´re pulling the cap of another bottle of beer.. cheers.

As for dependability, let automakers look at the aviation industry, they let computers in airplanes take lots of people everywhere, every day, with a safety record unsurpassed by any form of transport.

bas
9th August, 2011 @ 03:01 pm PDT

a horrible vision. HORRIBLEEEE

If there was something I ABSOLUTELY HATED it was this idiotic Clippy character in MS Office. Not only I was in deep trouble already but then came this idiot and added to the misery. I was livid with rage by the time I found how to switch it off.

(apparently I was not alone in my sentiments ...Clippy was later designated as uniquely unhelpful/useless feature in MS Office...that is why you are not being bothered in later MS Office versions)

Now imagine something similar starts bothering you in your car !!!!

nehopsa
9th August, 2011 @ 09:38 pm PDT

I hate the childish and patronizing UI experience of machines pretending to be a human.

I know these things are computers regurgitating stored information.

Enough with the window dressing. That means no talking heads or cutesy slang voices.

If it can display text, then it should do so. If there is a justifiable reason why text cannot be used, then it should speak in a normal voice.

If my car begins talking to be with that awful, overly-smug "your call is important to us" voice then I will rip the f***ing speakers out without hesitation.

Anon404
10th August, 2011 @ 11:36 am PDT

First question to Avatar: How do I shut down the Avatar function of this car?

Arjan van Kesteren
10th August, 2011 @ 11:48 am PDT

Have you seen that cartoon that has clippy popping up saying:

It looks like you're writing a letter. Would you like me to:

a) Bollocks it up for you

b) Just f*** off and leave you alone

8^)

Still a car that starts to act like the Star Ship Enterprise might be fun.....

warren52nz
10th August, 2011 @ 02:57 pm PDT

I was working on an open source 3D character animation engine a few years back that Ford expressed interest in for a similar idea. They contributed some to funding the project http://charengine.sourceforge.net/ but seem to have either lost interest or went a different route. You can see a quick demo of it halfway through the video on the project page.

domokun
10th August, 2011 @ 03:08 pm PDT

Worst. Idea. Ever.

Go back to Product Marketing 101 and come up with something useful.

Or consider a new career.

phydeaux
10th August, 2011 @ 09:23 pm PDT

Motor manufacturers have traditionally wasted loads of money supplying owners manuals in nasty plastic book covers (or leather if you buy a Jag; why do cows always have to die to make things posh?).

Then they wasted loads of OUR money having us cart around half a kilo of book for 250,000 kilometres.

Just release a free app guys. No physical production cost and weighs zero. Claim the savings as part of your carbon reduction programme.

Doug MacLeod
11th August, 2011 @ 09:05 am PDT
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