Awesome, Dude: Skateboard Provides Hands-On Demo of Tomorrow’s Technology

October 15, 2012
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Rad Rider – TMS Strategic Partnerships Manager Jason Schulz “test-drives” a skateboard that demonstrates how hand gestures might someday control vehicle features. Photo by Jon Didier
The future of the dashboard may ride on a skateboard.
 
Dubbed the “Board of Awesomeness,” the electric skateboard demonstrates how hand gestures might someday control vehicle features.
 
The board is equipped with a Windows 8 tablet and Windows Kinect motion-sensing software. Riders control the throttle by raising and lowering their hands; the closer their hand gets to the board, the faster the motor goes.
 
“You’re moving your hand, and you’re controlling the motor,” says Jason Schulz, Toyota Motor Sales strategic partnerships manager. “We’re taking it out of the virtual and making it real. That’s pretty fantastic.”
 
So is a possible real world application. When drivers raise their hand, the radio volume could go up. When they lower their hand, the volume could drop.
 
No buttons to push, no screen to tap. Eyes remain focused on the road.
 
A done deal? No. But it’s just one possible benefit of Toyota’s partnership with Microsoft, announced by Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda last year. It’s one possible use of gesture recognition technology to help drivers interact more effortlessly with their cars. And it’s a potential complement to voice recognition, which is sometimes hampered by accents and dialects.
 
“Gesture recognition is a great way to bridge the gap,” Schulz says. “Gestures are more universal.”
 
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Sensing the Future – A Windows 8 tablet and Windows Kinect motion-sensing software enable riders to control an electric skateboard motor by raising and lowering their hands. Photo by Jon Didier
Instead of speaking or touching a screen, drivers could respond to a voice command by simply nodding yes.
 
Toyota is also experimenting with Microsoft’s skeletal tracking technology, which can track the movements of each individual in a car.
 
Today, when a vehicle goes faster than 6 mph, some functions on the navigation system are locked out. Skeletal tracking technology could differentiate between the driver and passenger, and allow the passenger to access the system.
 
It’s all inspiration for the future that’s being translated from the conceptual to the concrete with the help of a simple skateboard.
 
“It’s an opportunity to show just how innovative we are,” says Schulz, “and it’s just the beginning.”

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