Thursday, May 9, 2013

Specs for Cars?

Tina Jeffrey
As Google Glass, the latest in experimental computer wearables, starts to make its way into the hands of select users, a multitude of use cases is popping up. For instance, a WIRED article recently explored the notion of your car being a ‘killer app’ for Google Glass. Now, you may not want to think of your car as a killer app, but let’s contemplate this use case for a moment.

Drivers wearing Glass could pair their new specs to their phone and instantly have a personal heads-up display (HUD) that overlays virtual road signs and GPS information over the scene in front of them. For instance:

Source: Google

Glass also understands voice commands and could dictate an email, display turn by turn directions, or set up and display point-of-interest destination data based on a simple voice command such as “Find the nearest Starbucks”.

This is all very cool — but does it bring anything new to the driving experience that isn’t already available? Not really. Car makers have already deployed voice-enabled systems to interface with navigation and location-based services; these services either run locally or are accessed through a brought-in mobile device and displayed on the head unit in a safe manner. ADAS algorithms, meanwhile, perform real-time traffic sign detection and recognition to display speed limits on the vehicle’s HUD. All this technology exists today and works quite well.

Catch me if you can
Another aspect to consider is the regulatory uncertainty created by drivers wearing these types of devices. Police can spot a driver with their head down texting on a cellphone or watching a movie on a DVD player. But detecting a driver performing these same activities while wearing a head-mounted display — not so easy. There’s no way of knowing whether the activities a driver is engaged in are driving related or an outright distraction. Unlike an HUD specified by the automaker, which is designed to coordinate and synchronize displayed data based on vehicle conditions and an assessment of cognitive load, a head-mounted display like Glass could give a driver free reign to engage in any activity at any time. This flies in the face of driver distraction guidelines being promulgated by government agencies.

Don’t get me wrong. Glass is cool technology, and I see viable applications for it. For instance, as an alternative to helmet cams when filming a first-person perspective of a ski run down a mountain, or in taking augmented reality gaming to the next level. (You can see many other applications on the Glass site.) But Glass is a personal display that operates as an extension of your cellphone, not as a replacement for a car’s HUD. Cars need well-integrated, useable systems that can safely enhance the driving experience. Because of this, I don’t believe that devices like Glass, as they are currently conceived, will garner a spot in our cars.

1 comment:

  1. That's funny, cause the picture above is showing a cop car in the other lane... Wonder if this person wearing The Google Glass got pulled over? LOL. Anyways, I know BlackBerry has some tricks to make Augmented Reality through the windshield much cooler! ;)