One of the most awkward aspects of learning how to drive, or using a rental car, is the fact that you're always using a vehicle that has been adjusted for someone else. Particularly if you're very short or very tall, there is no end of jerking, twisting and wiggling of the different mechanical levers and knobs around the vehicle to get you positioned at a comfortable height. Researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research and Isringhausen GmbH, however, have figured out the possible way of the future: gesture-based seat control.
This new interface allows drivers to adjust seat height and position as well as save settings if the car is used by multiple drivers. The entire interface lives in a single panel on the side of the seat. Since the system is very sensitive and it would be bad to mistake a driver's random hand movements for gestures, the system first must be switched on by pressing on a specific piezoelectrically charged point on the seat's synthetic covering.
Once the system is turned on, proximity sensors detect changes in the surrounding electrical field caused by the movements of the driver's hand. Users brushing the seat covering in different directions can adjust the seat's position as well as its inclination. An LED display on the dashboard has been designed to pair with the system and confirm with users that their commands have been received.
The system debuted at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September. Though it was developed for the high-end automotive market as well as professional truck and taxi drivers who have to sit for long hours, it's also interesting to think about what other applications this system could have. What if you could adjust your office chair without hopping up and down on the pneumatic adjustment, or even use this technology to accomplish usually difficult tasks, like unfolding a futon bed? Who knows what the future will hold.