Engineers at the University of Cambridge have developed a “no-touch” touchscreen for cars. How does that work? They call it predictive touch. The development team includes researchers from Jaguar Land Rover. They say their patented screens can predict the exact spot a user plans to touch on the screen. These screens are equipped to select the correct item before the user’s hand reaches the display. The new touchless touchscreen could be a game changer in a post-COVID-19 world, now that people are trained to keep their hands to themselves!
According to Tech Explore, lab tests, driving simulators, and road trials show that predictive touch technology works. It cuts a user’s screen selection time by up to half. That’s because it can sense the user’s target almost as soon as a finger points at the screen. Does that mean a car screen feature can actually read a driver’s mind?
The technology gathers information to determine the item a user is going to choose. Basically, it makes a really good guess. That guess comes from clues. Sensors track arm and finger movement. They pick up on environmental conditions and eye movement. Even stored user profile information shares clues about which button the user plans to press next.
The car experts at Driving.ca boast that this new technology really can figure out the user’s intention in real time. That’s key to its success.
A media release from jaguarlandrover.com touts the benefits of the patented predictive touchscreens. Scientists hope predictive touch technology will be helpful as lockdown restrictions around the world let up. Reducing the need to touch could prevent bacteria and viruses from spreading.
A greater benefit to touchless touchscreens is safety. Professor Simon Godsill from Cambridge led the predictive touch project. He explains, “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.” If a screen can sense a user’s choice moments before it’s actually made, that cuts down distraction time.
But what if . . . What if the touchless touchscreen predicts wrongly? What if an arm bounces or finger wiggles? Or, what if a user changes his or her mind at the last moment? Can this new technology adjust for split-second decisions? Maybe predictive touch technology is as much a misnomer as “touchless touchscreens.” Could it more aptly be named “best guess” technology?