Automotive

Wearable clips onto your steering wheel for eyes-free smartphone control

Wearable clips onto your steer...
The O6 controller addresses the common risks of distracted driving through a combination of intuitive hardware and unique software
The O6 controller addresses the common risks of distracted driving through a combination of intuitive hardware and unique software
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The O6 controller offers greater utility with the way it can work as a remote control for media apps or smarthome devices, all without having to touch a smartphone
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The O6 controller offers greater utility with the way it can work as a remote control for media apps or smarthome devices, all without having to touch a smartphone
The O6 controller addresses the common risks of distracted driving through a combination of intuitive hardware and unique software
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The O6 controller addresses the common risks of distracted driving through a combination of intuitive hardware and unique software
The O6 controller has compatible accessories that let users attach the device to a wristband or an on-the-go clip for belts, pockets, or bags
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The O6 controller has compatible accessories that let users attach the device to a wristband or an on-the-go clip for belts, pockets, or bags
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We all know that smartphones can be an addicting distraction, oftentimes drawing our attention away longer than may be considered safe. Team O6 by Fingertips Lab has created a wearable gizmo that offers a way to operate your phone without the need to look at or reach for the screen. The O6 controller is designed to use touch, voice, and gesture input to control apps and listen/respond to messages completely eyes-free.

Vehicular accidents can happen in a matter of seconds, so it's any wonder that distracted driving is a growing concern. Studies have shown how our "sixth sense" fails while texting and that using a HUD (heads-up display) may not provide the intended safety. O6 addresses the common risks of distracted driving through a combination of what appears to be intuitive hardware and unique software.

At 40 mm in diameter (1.57 in) and 11 mm (0.43 in) thick, the O6 controller looks like an over-sized jacket button – or perhaps a smartwatch with a funky orange clock face. Underneath its water-resistant, anodized bead-blasted aluminum exterior lies a haptic motor, motion sensors, Bluetooth 4.0 LE connectivity, and a rechargeable battery (all common to smartwatches). The O6 is designed to work with iOS devices – Android compatibility to be set at a later date – and also supports wired or Bluetooth connections to speakers, headphones, or car audio.

The O6 controller has compatible accessories that let users attach the device to a wristband or an on-the-go clip for belts, pockets, or bags
The O6 controller has compatible accessories that let users attach the device to a wristband or an on-the-go clip for belts, pockets, or bags

Through the rotary command dial and tactile buttons, which support multi-click actions, users can effectively interact with mobile devices in a one-handed or -fingered, non-visual way. The orientation-independent design removes the need for having to first determine up or down before using the device. The dial cycles through items/icons on screens, while the buttons provide context-sensitive actions and a means to select options.

The O6 controller features a different type of voice interface, one that addresses the types of interactions used by smartphones. Instead of requiring users to dictate commands, all one has to do is listen to the voice feedback and choose appropriately. Not only does the O6 software narrate emails, directions, texts, news posts, social feeds and more, but it's designed to analyze content and context in order to present the typical actions people would likely want to perform. Ambitious stuff, indeed.

A magnetic steering wheel mount allows the O6 to be placed within easy reach of fingers while driving. Other (optional) accessories let users attach the device to a wristband or an on-the-go clip for belts, pockets or bags. The O6 controller offers greater utility with the way it can work as a remote control for media apps or smart home devices, all without having to touch a smartphone. It can even double as a haptic watch for the visually-impaired, similar to Eone's timepiece, the Bradley.

The team behind the O6 controller is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, having raised 21 percent of a US$100,000 goal in less than a day, with another 39 days left to go. Pledges for one O6 start at $89 in choice of color, which also includes the charger mount. Accessories are sold separately.

You'll always want to take crowdfunding moonshots like this with a few grains of salt: especially when custom software is involved (in this case, including the difficult for anyone to live up to claim of responding to context), delays are all too common and the end result is seldom what was originally envisioned. There's also the fact that 06 is competing with cars' built-in infotainment systems – while those have historically been awful, the slow-trickle arrival of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have things gradually improving on that end. If you already have a quality solution built right into your car's HUD, using a wacky wearable device that requires mounting your smartphone onto your dash sounds a bit redundant.

The company does say it has working prototypes and has lined up manufacturing partners. If everything goes according to plan, backers can expect shipments of the O6 controller to start as early as February, 2017.

Check out the video below to see how O6 is meant to work.

Sources: O6 app, Kickstarter

O6 - Free Your Eyes

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4 comments
Timelord
Terrible idea. Studies have shown that hands-free cell phone use is still distracting and dangerous. You want to talk or text? Let someone else drive, or better still, let autonomous cars drive.
Rusty Harris
About a month ago, I was driving down one of the major north/south roads in the town I live it, on the west edge of the city. I heard my phone go off multiple times meaning I had received several emails & text messages. At a light, I popped it on, noticed several were important. I found a side road and pulled off, backed into a "farmers field" gate to safely read the email/text & respond. Of course I had my head down. Couple deputies in a cruiser stopped. I never saw them until they tapped on the passenger window. Rolled it down, they asked if I was ok, it looked like I was slumped down. I said no, I was just writing some email and it's safer to pull over than do it while driving. The look on their faces was one of utter shock that someone would actually pull off the road to do that, than just drive and do it.
Calson
Device does nothing to prevent the loss of concentration while reading text messages or typing them into a smartphone by its dumb user. Every day I see drivers leaving their lane and crossing over into other lanes while they are busy using their smartphones. Even worse the device interferes with the use of the steering wheel by the driver. What is needed is a way to disable the smartphone entirely while the car is traveling at more than 15 MPH and this can be done by simply having the phone sense its own velocity as it moves between cell towers, no GPS needed.
HOWI
Hands Free, (Contrary to Virginia Tech reports) is a lot safer than hand held. With that said, This solution falls short by requiring Eyes Off the Road as an option to select from. More intuitive design would be a design that allows screen output only when necessary, e.g. Navigation. The rest should be handled audibly using preset parameters operating by contexts specific to the driver. I demonstrated such a device in 2003 SAE Industry exhibit in Detroit. The system uses Thumb Gesture Interface and a Hands On Wheel Interface as an added measure to assure Hands Free. The system uses gesture to accept a context based output (Provided verbally) from the phone and the driver can respond with the appropriate gesture without have to look down or away to select, say the speech button. You can checkout www.iq-telematics.com for newer patents that were granted for the system.