Graham Eubank
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Ford Working to Bring Gesture, Expression Recognition to Future Vehicles

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Voice Recognition System Ford face

From childhood, many of us have dreamed of a future where we are able to interact with machines as though they are other people, whether it’s with a Rosie the Robot Maid or our very own Terminator that we are desperately trying to teach the value of life in order to prevent them from going on killing rampages at the slightest provocation.

That same dream also carried over to cars thanks to KITT, the star of Knight Rider who never once during the course of the show expressed that it had been programmed to kill target individuals in the hopes of stopping an uprising against machine overlords. At least I don’t think that was ever part of the show. Whatever the case, this idea of communicating with cars the way the Hoff interacted with KITT is closer to a reality now than it ever was in 1982.

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According to Ford, it is working toward bringing a more personal touch to its future vehicles with advanced AI that will learn more about you through microphones and camera, ideally learning the kind of music you like and being able to pick up on facial cues to decide if a well-timed pun might brighten up an otherwise stressful drive.

“We’re well on the road to developing the empathetic car which might tell you a joke to cheer you up, offer advice when you need it, remind you of birthdays, and keep you alert on a long drive,” said Fatima Vital, senior director, Marketing Automotive, Nuance Communications. Nuance teamed with Ford in the development of voice recognition for its SYNC connectivity system.

To give you an idea of what it has in mind, Ford cites the movie Her, starring Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix. Maybe that would have been a better thing to lead with instead of the whole Terminator thing.

Within two years, Nuance believes that voice control systems will be able to offer drivers personalized suggestions on the road based on calendar dates and shopping habits among other things, and that eventual eye- and gesture-based controls will allow drivers to respond without having to say a word. That’s what they call an unspoken bond. Like that which forms between a boy and his Terminator.

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