Chris – The gesture-based car assistant!

Meet Chris, the first digital assistant made for drivers. Safely operate your apps by voice and gesture while driving: messaging, navigation, calls and music. Your eyes stay on the road.

Holger Weiss, the CEO of the start-up German Auto Labs, demonstrated few days back a device known as Chris. This basically allows you to use simple gestures to interact with your mobile devices while driving. (Android and iOS) Read on further to find out more about the innovative device and the vision behind the company through this video on TechCrunch.

What is Chris?

It may resemble a Nest Thermostat, but the device is actually a digital assistant for your car. The company who makes it likes to think of it as an Alexa-type device that you can use while driving, and it’s easy to see why. Like an Amazon Echo or Google home, Chris can listen to you and understand a wealth of voice commands.

Unlike those home-based smart speakers, Chris can also be controlled with gestures. For tasks like scrolling through contact lists or skipping a song, swiping a hand in front of the device is a useful alternative for situations where voice control wouldn’t work so well.

As you’d expect from a dash-mounted device with a screen, turn by turn navigation is a key feature, with access to free maps from over 100 countries. Real-time functionality will be added in the coming months. Chris also connects to your phone via Bluetooth to allow for music playback, calling, and messaging (SMS or WhatsApp for now). Everything is controlled completely hands-free so you can concentrate on driving safely.

Chris is also capable of offline use, continuing to listen to commands and navigate even when you don’t have a data connection. It’s able to speak both English and German at the moment.

Holger’s explanation in the video –

Chris is the world’s first digital co-driver for every car. It’s basically a digital system As a retrofit kit for cars. We developed this piece of hardware that is supported by an app that you download to your phone – Android or iOS. And that in combination, gives this very unique experience.

We expect that most people use it first of all for messaging in the car and then we will see navigation and other use cases covered very well. We really only have 3 gestures. It’s far narrow, it’s left right and it’s high five and people get it very easily.

User privacy and data privacy and protection, that’s something that is extremely important from our side. We set the product and the platform in a way that it’s completely anonymised. So all the voice data, etc. that we used to automatically train the language monitors, etc. cannot be linked to any single user. And anything else is permission based. I mean, of course, if I want my assistant to learn how I behave, I have to share some data.

So Chris absolutely is the start of what we’re doing, what German Auto Labs is doing. It’s something that comes with a very low entry barrier. It solves an immediate problem. But what we develop behind is actually a co-driver AI, which goes way beyond just talking to you. It understands your behaviour. But as it is with AI, you need to train it and you need to iterate fast. So we decided to go to the aftermarket where we have a lot of cars consumers around to start the product go smaller steps, iterating fat and training the AI.


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Demonstration of Chris made by Holger –

Example # 1- The device being able to navigate routes, i.e. turn by turn navigation.

Holger: “Hey Chris, Navigate to Disrupt.”

Chris: “I found several routes to disrupt. Would you like to take this route? This one is via Angel Street and will take seven minutes. Do you want to take this route?”

Holger: “Yes.”

 

Example # 2- The device being able to send messages just through gestures and voice commands. The whole process, as mentioned earlier, is hands free.

Holger: “Hey Chris, send a message to Daniel.”

Chris: “I found several contacts with the name Daniel. Do you want to send a message to Daniel Lewis?”
(Holger gestures no by swiping left in the air)
“Daniel Chris?”

Holger: “Yes.”

Chris: “Ok, what do you want to say?”

Holger: “Hi Daniel, we’ll be late by 10. Calling you from there.”

Chris: “Alright. Sending Daniel will be late by 10. Calling you from there. To Daniel Chris mobile number. To stop or edit the message please say stop or cancel.”

 

Example # 3- The device being able to play music through Bluetooth.

Holger: “Play Gorillas.”

*Music plays.*

How can Chris be available?

Holger mentions that Chris is actually today available on their website chris.com. And it costs €299,99 / £299.99.

The specifications of the device is as shown below –

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Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha, commonly known as "nav", loves to read, play badminton, play the keyboard and sing but when she's not doing any of those, she loves to write. What started as a high school hobby to write is now her ongoing passion.

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