Recently, I’ve been reading the newspapers quite a lot.
I had stopped for a while because I found that everything in the papers was just depressing, and I’m not really the ‘let’s face the truth’ type. I’d rather sit inside a closed cardboard box and make vrooming noises than face whatever it is that’s happening in the outside world.
But now that I’ve started reading the papers again, I’ve realized that I was wrong all along.
As it turns out, making vrooming noises is what’s happening in the outside world.
I read this article about gesture technology, which says that you can now operate your car using simple hand gestures rather than having to go through the tiresome task of pressing a button every time you want to switch on the air conditioning or lower the windows. From what I gather, the car will be equipped with some sort of gesture recognition system. I don’t know how it works, so I’ll assume it has to do with black magic.
So basically, you make the gesture and the computer recognizes the command, and then, well, you just sit back and wait to crash. Because it’s a scientifically proven fact (maybe) that any technology with the word ‘recognition’ in its name is destined for doom.
The New York Times reports that this new technology will make “driving safer and more enjoyable”. Either this is meant to be subtle sarcasm, or they’re being deliberately stupid (or extremely optimistic, in kinder words).
How can you possible think that a computer system that (allegedly) recognizes hand gestures can keep you from crashing into a hedge? When I bought my iPod, the writing on the instruction manual said that it had voice recognition. It didn’t. However, it did have the unique ability to carefully listen to what I said and then say something so diametrically different from what I just said that I began to doubt my own sanity. After all, how does “Play songs by Coldplay” sound even remotely like “Search the web for Guantanamo Bay”? And correct me if I’m wrong, but “Coldplay, damn you!” doesn’t sound like “Hello kung fu”. If it can’t handle voice recognition, how could it possible handle gesture recognition? I could make all sorts of gestures, but how would that stop me from running over a pedestrian if the computer system is attempting to change the radio station?
Also, I don’t know how the companies expect us to remember which gesture to use for each command. I don’t even remember how I was supposed to end this sentence. They can’t possible think that drivers will remember that the pinky on the right hand means brake and the index on the left means ‘turn the volume up on the radio’. The only way to solve this problem would be to include a ‘gesture’ section on the driving tests. A lot more people would fail the test, and then there would be fewer cars on the road…hey, now I understand the NYT’s logic. Fewer cars mean fewer accidents and “safer driving”. Hmm.
And what if you’re driving with a passenger? I don’t think the gesture technology can recognize different passengers. So there you go. Your three-year old at the back can accelerate with a nod of her head. And don’t get me started on quarrels over the radio station. All over the world, people in cars will be winking and nodding vigorously every time there’s something good on the radio. No wonder the aliens haven’t visited yet.
The radio problem brings me to another point. There you are, after a long day at work, nodding along to a nice, peppy song on the radio. And suddenly, the boot begins to open. You turn around sharply, and then the windows start to roll down. You take one hand off the steering wheel in shock, and the car screeches to a halt. You get out and walk home, alongside several other people whose cars attempted to mimic Transformers when Channel 4 played a nice song.
In fact, I’m quite surprised that governments would even allow this. You’re not allowed to speak on your cell phone while driving, but you’re allowed to play a single-player game of twister. I’m not an expert, but I think that doing complicated manoeuvres with your hands and feet every time you want to switch on the air-con is not very safe. And who knows, you’ll probably end up upside down in a ditch just because you decided to scratch an itch. Or sneeze. Or move your head slightly.
I’ll say one thing though – this technology will make newspaper reports about car accidents much funnier:
“Two people in the vicinity suffered minor injuries in a car accident yesterday. Primary police investigations blame pop diva Britney Spears’ Hit Me Baby One More Time for the unfortunate incident.”