Virtual Assistant Replaces Driver's Manual in Interactive Car
The next time you ask yourself "why did that warning light just turn on?", your car may very well answer you right back with a brief explanation. Audi has developed an interactive owner's manual that uses a video avatar and voice recognition software to provide a virtual mechanic to help out drivers. Consider the system a KITT with German engineering and an eye towards safety.
Scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen teamed up with engineers at Audi AG to develop the Avatar-based Virtual Co-driver System (AviCoS), which comes standard in all new Audi models. The virtual figure understands complete sentences. Using artificial intelligence, AviCoS interprets questions by the vehicle occupants and answers in spoken language. The driver can view descriptive images or videos on-screen and the avatar points to the relevant areas during the explanation.
AviCoS also sports a multitouch interface, in addition to speech recognition. If a driver is unfamiliar with a specific control element, a simple touch is all it takes to cue the avatar to provide background information on the function in question.
"This is a tool to explain control elements in an quick and easy, hands-on way. It is particularly useful in unfamiliar vehicles," says Professor Helmut Krcmar, Chair of the TU Muenchen Institute of Business Informatics.
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To avoid distracting the driver's attention from traffic, as the vehicle speed increases, first the animations and later all graphical output is suppressed. Albeit, voice communication with the avatar remains available at all times.
Investigations carried out in the context of the research project attest to the virtues of AviCoS. Compared to looking up information in the owner's manual, car drivers can find the information they need faster and more accurately.
And that's just the beginning. Currently, Audi scientists are developing Aasystem that recognizes and adapts to the driver's state of mind. Future AviCoS units will analyze the driver's tone of voice and speech rhythm to determine if the driver is challenged by the current traffic situation. When it detects that the driver is stressed, it reduces the number of distracting animations on the screen.