New Manual Transmission: Creating an Augmented Reality Car Owner’s Guide

"Engine_Cut-away_SEMA2010", Image by Automotive Rythms

“Engine_Cut-away_SEMA2010”, Image by Automotive Rythms

Like most training and support documentation, car owner’s manuals are usually only consulted when something goes wrong with a vehicle. Some people look through them after they purchase a new ride, but usually their pages are about as interesting to read as watching paint dry on the wall. Does anyone really care about spending much quality time immersed in the scintillating details of how the transmission works unless you really must?

Not unsurprisingly, the results of a Google search on “car owner’s manuals” were, well, manifold as there exists numerous free sites online that contain deep and wide digital repositories of this highly detailed and exhaust-ively diagrammed support.

Now comes news that the prosaic car owner’s manual has been transformed into something entirely new with its transposition into an augmented reality (AR) application. This was the subject of a fascinating report on CNET.com on November 10, 2015 entitled Hyundai Unveils an Augmented-Reality Owner’s Manual by Andrew Krok. I will summarize and annotate it, and then pose a clutch of my own questions.

As well, the press release from the auto manufacturer entitled Hyundai Virtual Guide Introduces Augmented Reality to the Owner’s Manual was also released on November 10th. Both links contain photos of the app being used on a tablet. It can also be seen in operation in this brief video on YouTube. (Furthermore, these eleven Subway Fold posts have recently covered a range of the latest developments and application concerning augmented reality in other fields.)

Adding an entirely new meaning to the term “mobile” app, it is officially called the Hyundai Virtual Guide and can be used on a smartphone or tablet. It will soon be available for downloading on both Google Play and Apple’s App Store. It compresses “hundreds of pages of information” into the app and, in conjunction with the owner’s mobile device’s camera, can recognize dozens of features and several basic maintenance operations. This includes 82 videos and 50 more informational guides. Its equivalent, if traditionally formatted on paper, would be hundreds of pages.

The augmented reality implementation in the app consists of six 3D images. When the user scans his or her mobile over a component of the car such as the engine or dashboard, the screen image will be enhanced with additional “relevant information”. Another example is pointing the mobile’s camera and then clicking on “Engine Oil”, which is then followed by instructions on how to use the dipstick to check the oil level.

To start off, the app will only be available at first for the 2015 Hyundai Sonata model. Other models will later be made compatible with the app.

Hyundai chose which systems of the car to include in the app by surveying buyers on “the most difficult features to figure out”. Because everyone today is so accustomed to accessing information on a screen, the company determined that this was among the best ways to inform buyers about their new Sonatas.

The company has previously created other virtual means to access some of their other manuals. These have included an iPad configured with the owner’s manual of their Equus sedan and another app that displays the manual inside the passenger compartment on the “infotainment system’s touchscreen”.

My questions are as follows:

  • While this AR app is intended for consumers, is Hyundai considering extending the scope of this development to engineer a more detailed and sophisticated app for car dealers and service stations for maintenance and repairs?
  • Could an AR app make the process of yearly state car inspections faster and more economical?
  • Are the heads-up displays that project some of the dashboard’s information into the lower part of the windshield for drivers to see in some production models another form of automotive AR that could somehow be used together with the new AR manual app?
  • Would other consumer products such as, among others, electronics and recreational equipment benefit from AR manuals?
  • Just as we now see traditional car owner’s manuals gathered, cataloged and accessed online as described above, will future automotive AR apps similarly be imported into dedicated online libraries?
  • What entrepreneurial opportunities might be forming in the design, production and implementation of AR manuals and other automotive AR apps?
  • Could other important personal items such as prescription drug packaging benefit from an AR app because so few people every read the literature accompanying their medicines? In other words, would an AR app increase the probability that important information on dosages and potential adverse reactions will be read because of the more engaging and interactive format?

Can the Human Brain One Day be Fully Digitized and Uploaded?

"Human Brain Illustrated with Millions of Small Nerves", Image by Ars Electronica

“Human Brain Illustrated with Millions of Small Nerves”, Image by Ars Electronica

Can the human brain somehow be digitized? Can someone’s mind  be bitmapped and uploaded to a computer? Even if this ever becomes possible, is it something anyone would actually want to have done?

A Senior Scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus named Kenneth Hayworth is currently working on this possibility. He is also the President and Co-Founder of the Brain Preservation Foundation. His work in this field is the subject of a most interesting profile in the May 2015 edition of Smithsonian Magazine entitled The Quest to Upload Your Mind Into the Digital Space by Jerry Adler.

I will sum up, annotate and ask a few questions about this piece. I  also recommend clicking through and reading it for more of the details.

Hayworth’s plan is to digitize and upload his “memory, skills and personality” to a computer. In turn, this system can be programmed to “emulate” the operations of his brain. As well, this system could perhaps enable him live on indefinitely in this electronic form.

This kind of adds a whole new meaning to keeping someone in mind.

If Hayworth does achieve this goal of producing human-level or above intelligence embedded in silicon, it will be considered to be one of the  technological manifestations of The Singularity, an anticipated point in the next few decades where machine intelligence equals and then surpasses human intelligence. The prediction of this event was the subject of a fascinating book by the renowned inventor and computer scientist Ray Kurzweil entitled The Singularity is Near (Penguin Books, 2006). I suggest reading this if you are ever looking for a truly original and challenging science and technology book.

Carboncopies.org is another organization working towards a similar goal of producing a “substrate independent mind” (SIM). Dr. Randall Koene is the founder.

In their best case scenarios, Hayworth and Koene believe this will cost billions and take about 50 years to accomplish. Hayworth’s plans are to devise a chemical or cryonic means to preserve the full human being at death and then scan its structure into a database in order to then achieve the mind’s emulation. However, this remains based upon an as yet unproven hypothesis that all of the “subtleties of the human mind and memory” are held within the brains “anatomical structure”.

Furthermore, these projects will require significant leaps in technological development. One of these, among others, is the building of the connectome, a long-term initiative to fully map the billions of neurons and, in turn, their trillions of connecting synapses in the human brain. As also previously discussed in the December 27, 2014 Subway Fold Post entitled Three New Perspectives on Whether Artificial Intelligence Threatens or Benefits the World :

For an absolutely fascinating deep and wide analysis of current and future projects to map out all of the billions of connections among the neurons in the human brain, I suggest reading Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are (Houghton Mifflin, 2012), by Sebastian Seung.  See also a most interesting column about the work of Dr. Seung and others by James Gorman in the November 10, 2014 edition of The New York Times entitled Learning How Little We Know About the Brain. (For the sake of all humanity, let’s hope these scientists don’t decide to use Homer J. Simpson, at fn.3 above, as a test subject for their work.)

Furthermore, a program announced by the US government in 2013  to build a comprehensive map of human brain activity. It is intended to operate on the scale of the Human Genome Project. (For detailed coverage of this see Obama Seeking to Boost Coverage of Human Brain, by John Markoff, in the February 17, 2013 edition of The New York Times.)

Among “mainstream researchers”, opinion is split as to whether Hayworth’s objective is even possible. Moreover, will such machine brains experience comparable human emotions, needs and desires? Will they be truly sentient?

My own questions are as follows:

  • Is this story really about machine capabilities or the ages old human dream of becoming immortal?
  • What protocols and laws, if any, should be drafted and enacted to make certain that this area of development does not lead to any unintended or dangerous consequences? Are Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics a logical place to begin studying these issues?
  • In addition to neuroscience and artificial intelligence, what other scientific fields and commercial marketplaces might these projects influence and benefit?
  • What entrepreneurial opportunities might exist now and in the future to facilitate and support these initiatives?
  • What would be the long-term economic and social consequences if this form of singularity is ever achieved?
  • Will the prospect of this achievement be so unsettling that it might result in some form of scientific and/or public backlash?

Finally, the notion of transferring an individual’s consciousness from one person to another has long been a popular plot device in science fiction. My own recommendation for one of the best sci-fi novels I have ever read to ever use this is Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan (Del Ray, 2003). It presents a truly, well, mind-bending plot and crackling prose about a future world where brains can be downloaded and implanted multiple times from a form of central server. (September 12, 2016 Update: Altered Carbon is being adapted for a new TV series. The details were reported in a post on Deadline.com today in an article entitled ‘Altered Carbon’: Marlene Forte & Trieu Tran Join Cast of Netflix Series, by Denise Petski. I am definitely looking forward to seeing how the production, writing and acting crew do with this very rich source material.)