UNH receives funding to create self-driving office of the future

Project will test how voice, augmented reality and tangible interfaces safely combine work and driving activities
Photo by Andrew Kun
In UNH’s driving simulator|!!| a researcher wears Microsoft HoloLens augmented reality glasses|!!| which overlay virtual objects on the “world” shown by the simulator.

A researcher from the University of New Hampshire is working on a collaborative project that will evaluate how technology could make automated vehicles productive work spaces. 

The National Science Foundation awarded UNH researcher Andrew Kun and his colleagues from four other institutions a combined $2 million grant for the study. UNH will lead the four-year project, collaborating with Harvard University, Wellesley College, and the universities of Washington and Wisconsin. The grant falls under the NSF’s Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier initiative, one of the agency’s ten Big Ideas for Future Investment.

“Millions of people spend nearly an hour of each working day driving to and from work,” said Kun, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at UNH. “With automated vehicles, part of this time could be used toward work-related efforts. With this project, we want to understand how realistic current and future technologies might help us work in automated vehicles and increase the productivity and well-being of workers, as well as the productivity and profitability of firms.”

Researchers will develop and test a new multi-interface in-vehicle environment in driving simulators and real vehicles to understand how technology can allow commuters to safely combine activities related to work with those related to driving. The project will integrate three types of user interfaces — voice, augmented reality and tangible interfaces — and will generate design guidelines for researchers, practitioners and policy makers.

“Automated vehicles hold out the promise of significantly improving the safety of driving,” said Kun. “They also open up possibilities for using our time in vehicles to rest, to play and to work, because we will not constantly need to focus on the road – the car will do this for us. The question we are asking is this: How do we design the inside of the car to allow us to take advantage of this new-found freedom from driving?”

Categories: Technology