When Flutter, a startup that works on using gestures to control functions in your computer’s media player, announced that it was acquired by Google yesterday, pundits everywhere rushed to try and draw some conclusion about what the company could possibly do for Google’s desktop or mobile businesses.
Now, it seems, Google may have more uses for the company in the automotive world.
The search engine giant recently filed a patent that describes a method of controlling functions of a car using — you guessed it — gestures. Instead of focusing on particular gestures (like raising your middle finger to honk your horn) the system as described in the patent would be context-aware, so that raising or lowering your hand near the radio would change stations, while repeating the same gesture near the window would roll it up or down.
Building a system like that into a car could be the first step Google takes to start getting its tendrils into the consumer-facing side of the automotive sector. While the company is working on building self-driving cars, actually bringing those to market will be quite the challenge. A gesture interface like this one could be a way for Google to build relationships with carmakers and drivers before trying to replace the driver entirely.
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.