Drivers have been making certain gestures from the front seat for decades, but Microsoft has a new idea for making arm and finger motions actually useful inside the car.

fig23The company, which brought gesture controls to the living room via its Kinect sensor for Xbox 360, is now thinking about bringing them to the car via smartphones.

A newly surfaced patent application from three Microsoft researchers outlines a system for interacting with a vehicle’s information and entertainment system using a variety of gestures, such as a finger to the lips for turning down the audio volume, a thumbs-up to approve an action, or a pinch of the chin — a “quizzical pose,” as the filing puts it — to conduct an Internet search.

Another example: The user “can make a movement that mimics placing a phone near an ear” to instruct the mobile device to place a call.

in-carThe system would work via a mobile device (such as a smartphone) mounted on the dashboard, using the device’s built-in camera to capture the scene inside the vehicle and interpret the gestures.

The researchers — Oliver FoehrVictor Bahl and Tim Paek — envision this gesture system working in conjunction with voice recognition, which is of course already commonplace in cars.

Ideas such as this from Microsoft Research can help to inform and shape the company’s products, and Microsoft does have an automotive technology group that provides systems to major automakers, but there’s no guarantee that this would ever become a product.

And what about prior art? The GeekWire reader who alerted us to this filing also created this diagram of Microsoft’s “sources of inspiration” for the gestures.


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  • PatentBuster

    Fat chance Microsoft will get a patent issued — this article describes the same thing 6 weeks before that application was filed:

    “Citing a desire to make cellphone use more convenient and intuitive,
    Texas Instruments will power Microsoft Kinect-like gesture recognition
    in phones starting next year.”

    “The most compelling case is probably while driving. Safety concerns
    and “hands-free” laws make it unadvisable if not illegal for drivers to
    operate cellphones. Gesture recognition would make it possible to
    interact with phones while keeping at least one hand on the wheel, notes
    Avner Goren, General Manager of TI’s OMAP business unit. ”

    “For example, once a phone is positioned on a car dashboard, a driver
    could utilize gestures to answer or ignore an incoming call, activate
    voice recognition features, zoom in or out on a map and adjust the
    device’s volume, said Goren in an interview. The exact gestures would
    vary based on phone model or personal preference but would likely
    include a series of waves, swoops, pats and flicks.”

    • TrollsRMorons

      Better change your name to PatenDolt, because you clearly don’t know much about the patent granting process.

      • PatentBuster

        What exactly do I not understand about the “patent granting process”? Please educate me.

        Perhaps I should clarify – fat chance that they will get a useful or valuable patent that covers what this article (or their claims) describe. The details not already covered by the article reporting the TI manager’s statements (sufficient for a direct 35 USC 102(a) rejection) are pretty obvious to anyone familiar with the current state of the art. But, you can almost always get a patent issued if you narrow and amend the claims far enough to make it worthless.

  • dabble53

    Prior art (as illustrated) doesn’t apply, because the PTO knows for a fact that no one before would ever have thought of using those gestures inside a car….no, they only made sense outside of any enclosure prior to M$’ patent application.

  • IHateMSFT

    M$ if a pack of patent jackasses and nothing more.

    These gestures can not be patented.

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