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MicrosoftPatent

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.

MicrosoftPatentSourcesOfInspiration

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