SoftKinetic has developed a series of applications that enable vehicle drivers to carry out a wide range of actions using the back of their hand, while they continue to concentrate on the road.

SoftKinectic brings gesture recognition to the Auto sector

Gesture recognition is one of the most common fantasies of the human psyche – being able to launch any application or command any action within an ecosystem of connected objects with a simple wave of the hand. So is this magical ability still in the world of the imagination? Apparently not. Judging by the solution developed by Brussels-based firm SoftKinetic, this kind of gesture recognition is now (no pun intended) within hand’s reach. The company, which specialises in 3D recognition systems, has set out to widen the range of applications of gesture command solutions, moving away from the specialised video games sector in which it cut its teeth and entering the automobile equipment mass market.

A range of in-vehicle gesture commands

At CES 2014 which took place in Las Vegas in early January, SoftKinetic and Freescale unveiled their gesture recognition system for cars. A simple camera set into and connected with the dashboard enables recognition of a wide range of user gestures. This solution, which has been developed to work with most 3D cameras currently on the market, recognises finger and hand movements plus larger body movements. “Automotive infotainment solutions have been successful from the start, but consumers are now ready for something more intuitive and less distracting,” explained Michel Tombroff, CEO of SoftKinetic solutions, adding: “We’re confident that 3D gesture recognition will become an integral part of the automotive infotainment experience, offering such capabilities as driver behaviour tracking and enhanced context awareness, as demand continues to grow.” The SoftKinetic solution could be used to command a variety of actions, such as changing the radio station by snapping your fingers, opening a door without a key, checking the current state of the traffic or entering a destination on your GPS.

A growing market

“The market for gesture recognition technologies in the automotive sector is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years,” pointed out Stirling Adelhelm, an investment banking associate at international technology investment banking group GP Bullhound. The SoftKinetic solution, which allows the driver to stay sitting straight, without having to lean over or look away from the road ahead, has obvious potential to improve road safety but there is a real fun dimension to the hand controls as well. With the ever-increasing amount of embedded IT going into our vehicles, the gesture recognition tool could also be adapted to cover a much wider range of commands, which would be based on a ‘glossary’ of gestures. All in all, underlines Stirling Adelhelm: “Gesture technology provides an inherently natural means of human-machine communication within the car.”

By Quentin Capelle