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Convergent Technology - Steering Wheel

Time to Converge: Contactless Touch in the Post-Digital Age

Digital Convergence
Contactless Touch
Machine Learning
Artificial Intelligence
Virtual Reality
Smart Home
Convergent Technology

Technologies that were recently still relegated to the realm of sci-fi are now becoming part of our everyday lives. AI, machine learning, VR, and holograms are testament to the innovative nature of humankind. But what happens when you converge them with contactless technology too?

Technological convergence is nothing new, but it is powerful. Browsing the web on your phone, Bluetooth speakers and video streaming services are all ubiquitous examples that have defined an entire generation.

In the wake of a global pandemic, it’s no surprise that our willingness to engage with new technologies is rising, especially when it makes day-to-day interactions smoother and safer. A study by Capgemini Research found that three-quarters of customers expect to see an increase in the use of touchless interfaces, including voice assistants and facial recognition technologies, even “after” COVID. Context-aware AI use cases have also been circled as a key investment for companies aiming to deliver future-proof customer experiences.

Contactless touch has a big role to play. Tech moguls have been investing in this technology for well over a decade, and to reach the next level of connectedness and remove as much physical and psychological friction as possible, a variety of technologies needs to work together to create beautiful experiences for everyone.

So how can these technologies complement each other, and what gaps, if any, can contactless touch fill? (spoiler: there’s a few).

Service with a smile 2.0

In recent years, many touch screens and self-ordering kiosks have gone touchless, providing not only higher levels of hygiene, but also boosts in sales. Now, they’re leveling up even further. Take Menutainment as an example. Their AI-powered kiosks have speech-to-order voice recognition in seven languages, and use facial recognition to recognize repeat customers and remember personal preferences. By converging contactless touch, gesture-control and voice recognition, even people with impaired speech or hearing can easily place their order. Menutainment’s kiosks even recognize sign language.

Kevin Bessy, CEO of Menutainment, believes that finding new ways to combine complementary technologies will provide the foundation for the post-digital world: where technology is seamlessly integrated into almost every part of our day-to-day lives.

“Interest in our kiosks is growing quickly, and there are many different applications and use cases for them. Thanks to leaps in various fields, for example in natural language processing, people can interact with increasingly intelligent virtual avatars who can help guide them through the customer experience, whether that be in a stadium, a restaurant, or a hotel. Contactless touch technology adds an additional layer that makes these interactions even smoother, as well as increasing accessibility and hygiene.”

Eyes on the road

The automotive industry has always been a hotbed for innovation, and the in-car experience continues to evolve beautifully. Industry leaders are laying the foundations for more intuitive human-vehicle interactions and automated driving.

Autoliv, a global leader in automotive safety, worked closely with Neonode to develop the world’s first smart steering wheel which responds to drivers’ commands without the need for them to take their hands off the wheel or use mechanical switches. Using a combination of AI, machine learning and optical touch sensors, the car sends information to the driver and the wheel responds with subtle light-based visual queues that allows the driver to react with a simple tap or stroke motion, even with gloves. With contextual information the steering wheel will let the driver perform functions such answer incoming calls, control the entertainment system and even control the acceleration of the vehicle. It will also immediately engage autopilot if the driver’s hands are taken off the wheel.

In-cabin monitoring can be integrated with these solutions to enhance safety even further. Using a combination of advanced sensors and AI, it’s possible to track what’s happening inside the vehicle in real-time and capture crucial insights, for example, if a driver is drowsy or distracted. The data gleaned from both of these technologies not only improves driver safety, but also serves as a highly valuable asset to inform future automotive designs and product development.

Safer surgery

The importance of an efficient, effective, healthcare system has never been more apparent, and it’s no surprise that the industry is looking for new innovative ways to increase hygiene and streamline processes.

Neonode works with a several MedTech manufacturers of hospital equipment. Combining Neonode Touch Sensor Modules with medical grade monitors eliminates the unnecessary need to touch potentially unsanitary surfaces, making a perfect solution for bedside monitoring, laboratories or even the operating theatre. The solution works with any input – including surgical gloves – making it easier and safer for surgeons to interact with medical displays and giving them more control over the operating room.

Contactless touch can create significant value for vulnerable patients at other high-touch points too, for example, door handles, vending machines and check-in counters.

In office

Some people are itching to get back to the office, but will it be the same post-COVID? We hope not. Flexibility, safety, and security are increasingly becoming top of mind for organizations as our traditional views of office life are reassessed. According to a 2021 study by EY, 68% of CEOs are planning major investments in data and technology to boost employee experience and satisfaction - inside the office or out.

In a world where sanitizing your hands is second nature, part of that experience will involve managing employee congestion and creating a more contactless experience. Take elevators, for example. With contactless touch it’s possible for employees to call one by simply hovering their finger over their desired floor. But what about converging contactless touch with remote sensing technology? Elevators could then also automatically take into account how many people are currently onboard, and if it’s in danger of being too full, bypass the next few floors until people alight. This makes the office not only more efficient and hygienic, but also a joy to visit.

Home sweet, smart, home

With the massive surge in the number of IoT and connected devices, it’s not exactly a stretch to say that end-to-end smart homes is a market worth watching. Today, voice assistants can do a lot of useful things, but their control doesn’t always extend to key appliances - and sometimes silence is golden (especially if you have a two-year-old in bed). Contactless touch can be a fantastic complementary technology, especially when it comes to white goods. Flushing toilets and controlling ovens, washing machines and even showers all with the wave of a hand adds a nice “touch” to the future abode.

Converge, collaborate, captivate.

It’s time that technology started adapting to us, not the other way round. It’s clear that contactless touch technology can be combined with a whole host of technologies to create a more comfortable, safer reality — without leaving anyone behind. Organizations that can deliver a relevant, humanized experience will not only increase customer satisfaction, but make our world a safer, more joyful place.

Learn More

At Neonode, we are the go-to company for contactless touch technology, which has been deployed in over 80 million products around the world. Learn more about our full range of world-leading solutions.