September/October 2011
Automation Update

Avatar replaces vehicle owner's manual

Scientists at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen in cooperation with engineers at Audi AG have developed an Avatar-based Virtual Co-driver System (AviCoS) to support a driver with explicit information on the vehicle in a natural-language dialog-supported by images and videos-making cumbersome paging through owner's manuals a thing of the past.

avatarThe avatar is displayed on the monitor of the Audi Mulitmedia Interface that comes standard in all new Audi models, reported ScienceDaily. 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.

A further option for communicating with AviCoS is a Touch&Tell mode. 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 a quick and easy, hands-on way. It is particularly useful in unfamiliar vehicles," said Professor Helmut Krcmar, chair of the TU Muenchen Institute of Business Informatics.

AviCoS can also be used while driving. 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.

"Overall, AviCoS provides comfortable and interactive access to multimedia content that goes far beyond the information contained in printed manuals. The self-explanatory system can be used without training, making it easy to get familiar with the operation of a vehicle," said Dr. Michael Schermann, director of the Automotive Services research group at the Institute for Business Informatics.