Car seat that can read your gestures
RESEARCHERS at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC, in collaboration with Isringhausen GmbH & Co. KG, have engineered a driver’s seat that can be calibrated intuitively through gestures.
The research was driven by the number of drivers who develop back pain from spending on average nine hours a day behind a steering wheel. Back pain can be alleviated by simply adjusting the seat to fit the person at the wheel.
Johannes Ehrlich of the Centre for Smart Materials (Cesma) at Fraunhofer ISC said most truck seats can be adjusted widely, but most drivers don’t have time to fiddle with their seats during a day’s journey.
To make it easy to adjust the seat, Ehrlich said Cesma used a sensor-based gesture control system that senses movement or registers a quick finger press to move the seat forwards and backwards, as well as up and down.
“In addition, he or she can also custom-set the incline of the thigh support and back rest in the same manner,” said Ehrlich.
The piezosensors are built into the side of the seat and are activated with brief pressure on a certain point on the side cover. “This way we prevent the motion control from being triggered accidentally,” said Ehrlich.
In addition, seat positions can be stored through this point by pressing several times, which is a useful option if multiple drivers are using the same truck. Proximity sensors that are likewise built into the side cover are used to detect gestures.
They can track the smallest changes in electrical fields in the environment, such as when they are triggered through hand motions. Another software program engineered at ISC reads these sensors and determines the hand’s direction of motion from this.
The arrangement of the sensors in the side panel is therefore of decisive importance. “We have attached electrodes to the relatively limited space, so that the necessary control gestures are easy and ergonomically favourable,” said Ehrlich.
An intelligent algorithm in the software guarantees that multiple electrodes can be evaluated simultaneously, thereby reducing incorrect operation. Once the operator has performed the settings, the gesture control automatically shuts off as soon as the hand is moved away from the sensor area. The driver then receives confirmation that the gestures were stored successfully through an LED instrument.
Isringhausen GmbH, together with the ISC scientists, has already realised a fully functional prototype of the sensor seat. It will be unveiled at the IAA in Frankfurt this year. — WR.