tum virtual assistant.automotiveIT

An Avatar provides driver assistance in an Audi test vehicle (Photo: Technical University Munich)

An Avatar-based virtual co-driver system (AviCoS) will do away with the multi-page driver manuals that traditionally hog the glove compartments of most cars.

That's the vision of the Information Systems department of Munich's Technical University. The department has teamed up with premium car maker Audi to develop a virtual assistant that provides specific information about vehicle functions supported by images and video.

The Avatar - or on-screen character - is visible on the monitor of Audi's multimedia interface. It understands common sentences and interprets requests using artificial intelligence. The Avatar can answer with normal speech and can point to parts of pictures and videos on the screen.

The software also has a "Touch&Tell" mode, which lets a driver or passenger touch a control to get information from the Avatar on its use.

As a car speeds up, the AviCoS system reduces the number of graphical elements on the screen to avoid driver distraction. Speech communication remains possible at all speeds.