In the age of the tablet computer, interacting with a device can sometimes be as simple as pointing at the thing you’d like to move on screen, typing on a virtual keyboard or even using your voice to tell the computer what you’d like to do. But there was a time when interacting with a computer meant you had to be adept at deciphering punchcards — and for most people today, thinking of interacting in this old-fashioned way with a computer seems almost impossible to comprehend.
Since the dawn of the car, we’ve used the same basic interactions to both look at the world around us and find out important information about the car itself, but augmented reality windshields could be about to change the way we drive cars forever. What’s more, augmented reality windshields could be safer and more intuitive to use than discrete dials, gauges, and displays — just like touch-screens are on tablet devices.
Inspired by augmented reality consumer electronics devices like Google Glass and head-up displays on fighter jets, the next generation of car windshields promise to help us become better, more attentive drivers in a world where data overload and driver distraction is a major killer, argue many academics.
As Automotive News explains, automakers like Jaguar Land Rover and components manufacturers like Continental are rushing to bring augmented reality screens to market that instead of using a small projected image on the bottom of the windshield to display information about speed or navigation would be able to turn the lowly windshield into a media rich, interconnected display.
Imagine the scenario: you’re driving along an unfamiliar road at night, and suddenly the car flashes up a warning directly in front of you on the road. It’s the same size, shape, and position as the deer lurking on the verge, allowing you to quickly identify the danger ahead and take necessary action.
Instead of seeing a warning light somewhere on your car’s dashboard, the car has drawn your attention to the exact thing you need to avoid in a tangible and intuitive way. This allows your brain to react far more quickly and instinctively, keeping you and the deer safe.
Or perhaps you’re driving in thick fog, and you can’t see the semi ahead suddenly brake until it’s too late. With a fully augmented reality screen working in tandem with infrared or laser sensors on the front of your car, your car could not only start emergency braking to help keep you safe, but display an outline of the unseen semi on your windshield in real time, allowing you to see just what has caused your car to slow down.
Rather than be a dream technology from the distant future however, automakers are already working to bring augmented reality technology to the next-generation of cars. Earlier this summer, Jaguar showcased a full-windshield head-up display concept for use on race tracks. As well as displaying information about lap times, corners and important vehicle information, it included a ghost car overlaid on the screen similar to ones found in computer racing games. The idea? To help drivers improve their race technique and beat the ghost car in the real world, blurring the line between computer games and reality.
Toyota, meanwhile, is working on a system that can project a 3-D image on the windshield in the driver’s line of sight in such a way that objects can appear in front of the vehicle. This makes it not only possible to project warnings and road directions ahead of the car, but give drivers visual clues about how far away they are.
As we explained earlier this summer, augmented reality is already making its way into pre-production cars, with the aim of making driving fare more instinctive and less distracted than it is at the moment.
But would you want a car where information is projected onto the screen in your line of sight?
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