If you text and drive, you are a garbage person. That should be obvious and yet despite nearly universal acknowledgement of the dangers of texting and driving 26% of drivers still do it. Logi (the consumer-facing brand for Logitech) thinks the answer is not keeping smartphone out of cars, but finding a low-cost way to keep hands off of phones.
Its new idea is called ZeroTouch, which the company unveiled on Wednesday.
It delivers the “connected car for the other 90% of the world that doesn’t want to buy a new car,” Bracken P. Darrell, Logitech President and CEO told Mashable.
The concept is simple, a Bluetooth-enabled bracket that lets you mount your Android phone to the dashboard vent (you can also mount in on top of the dash) and interact with it though Logi’s new ZeroTouch app via voice or gesture (which uses the phone’s infrared camera — provided it has one).
The $59 device comes with two metal vent mounts (the dashboard-mounted version costs $79). With the software enabled and running in the background, it launches as soon as you place the phone in the ZeroTouch cradle.
The app will respond to a High Five gesture and you can use it to launch “Talk 2 Text,” a text-to-speech and speech to text feature. You can make calls and also share your location with another phone, which doesn’t need the ZeroTouch app to receive your location — it arrives as a web link via a Glympse integration.
Darrell told us they worked with the transportation experts to test and develop the device and the goal is that you don’t have to look at or touch the phone when driving.
The app also supports other third-party app integrations, including Spotify, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts. The messaging apps support incoming calls, but won’t let you initiate a new one. “The goal is not for people to be texting more than before,” said Darrell.
For now, ZeroTouch is Android only. The iPhone handles background tasks differently, so Logi plans on creating an alternative for Apple’s platform. ZeroTouch is, for now, launching in the U.S. and Germany.
Even though it might be a while before ZeroTouch arrives state-side, I got a little hands-on time with the new device.
Since I’m in the city — actually on the 15th floor of an office building — I decided to set up the dash-mounted ZeroTouch on my desk and give it a test…er…drive.
While the vent-mounted ZeroTouch, which Logi also sent me, is fairly small — it could easily fit in the palm of my hand, the adjustable dash mount is considerably larger. It can attach to the dash or flip over and attach to your windshield. The base is a suction cup with a little bit of tackiness built in. There’s also also a built-in lever so you can pull the cup tight. Once I did this, it took considerable force to pull it off my desk and and my glass office door.
The base is a battery-powered Bluetooth device and you have to pull out a plastic tab before you start using it. After that, you just have to choose one of the two included magnetic metal mounts and attach it to the back of your Android smartphone. I used a Samsung Galaxy S7. The company tells me the metal tab can be pried off if necessary — I kind of wish there was an easier and less potentially damaging way to do it.
The mount will snap into place on the top of the dash mount, which is also magnetized. Again, the hold here is strong, no concerns about your phone sliding around when you’re driving.
I installed the still-in-beta ZeroTouch app on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and then, as soon as I placed the phone on the dash mount, the app launched, paired with the phone and walked the through the setup. It was easy and mostly consisted of it training me how to properly wave at the phone to wake it and the ZeroTouch app up.
The next step was for me to simulate driving with the phone. ZeroTouch is not an always-listening device and app. Instead, I had to wave at the phone to wake it up. This took some practice. Sometimes I would hover my hand near the ear piece (the infrared sensors are right next to it) and nothing would happen. I usually got it on the second try.
When my gesture or wave worked, ZeroTouch would present me with a microphone, waiting for me to say one of its numerous command options. If I didn’t respond, it would say in an unsettling robotic voice, “Sorry, what did you want me to do again?” and display four options: Text, Call, Play, Navigate.
I made calls, sent texts and even shared my location. I was impressed with how well it understood all my commands. Once I had ZeroTouch’s attention, my interactions for, say, sending a text were all via voice. When I said who I wanted to send a text to, it would ask about the contents of the message and then read it back to me before sending.
I practiced gesturing without looking at the phone. but still caught myself glancing in its direction. Without a doubt, ZeroTouch is a potential improvement over any deeper engagement with your mobile device in the car and should be a boon for those who don’t have Bluetooth-ready vehicles, but I wonder if the high-five is truly the best way to wake it up.
I’m sure Logi (Logitech) will make some adjustments before bringing the product to iPhones.
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