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This 'Anti-Snoozer' Tech Could Keep You From Falling Asleep Behind the Wheel

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 5,000 or 6,000 car crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers, and Peter Ma thinks it's time people woke up.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 5,000 or 6,000 car crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers, and Peter Ma thinks it's time people woke up.

If the CDC's efforts aren't cutting down on the number of tired people getting behind the wheel, and Americans can't be persuaded to get off the internet and go to bed, well, what can you do? Ma decided to make their car freak out on them.


Meet Anti-Snoozer. It's here to keep an eye on you.

Motherboard: So how do you describe the Anti-Snoozer?
Peter Ma: It's a facial detection system for when people are falling asleep at the wheel. Over a third of drivers in America have admitted to driving drowsy at one point in their driving careers. Obviously, a lot of accidents happen because of that as well–some more severe than others.

How long have you been working on this project?
I've been working on it since January of this year.

And what stage is this now?
It's still a prototype—a polished prototype but still a prototype. We built it in 24 hours back in mid-January. My sister took the pitch to the AT&T Developer Summit, and the main reason was we just got a camera. It has the capability to see real-time facial movements—not just facial recognition but full on facial tracking.

So how does it work? What's the experience of having an Anti-Snoozer?
It's quite simple. You have a camera, ideally on your dashboard, that detects when you're rapid blinking, when your eyes are closing, when you're yawning, as well as when you're looking around too much. When that's detected, a sound alarm is activated, as well as the car's hazard lights (if you have access to that) to warn the other drivers. In order to stop it, you can either look directly at the road, or raise your hand to signal, like in a boxing match, to stop the annoying sounds. There are other features, like text messages, that are sent to your loved ones, but those aren't immediate feedback that you can have.


How did you determine the indicators of drowsy driving? The blinking and all that?
We kind of just did it ourselves: what defines when someone's drowsy and what can technology do? There's also other stuff that shows when someone's drowsy, but this is what the technology allows us to do.

Okay. So what's the tech in there?
It consists of an Intel® RealSense™ camera on the dashboard and an Intel® Edison chip, which gives you all of the alarms. In the center is a computer. For this one, we use a thing called NUC. It's just a "next unit of computing," a tiny little computer—a Mac mini is probably the easiest comparison. It runs the operating system that can run the software, and it can be mounted anywhere. Ideally this would be integrated inside the car, and not as a third-party product.

You want it to come with the car: "Comes with radio, Anti-Snoozer tech, and antilock brakes?"
That's the ideal case, but we'll see. I just open sourced the whole technology, so anyone who wants to can play with the technology or build one for themselves.

What are the two chips on it?
The first chip is the Haswell chip that's in all of our computers. The 3D camera does require a lot of processing power, because we're doing facial recognition and we're doing voice synthesis, but without the Internet. Normally, on something like your phone, voice-to-text and text-to-voice involves sending the file off to be processed and getting something back, but we want to do all that processing on board, so it took a pretty powerful chip.


The second chip is an Edison chip that comes from the Internet of things. If you use the camera as a sensor and you're sensing "drowsy," you need to set some alarms in order to attempt to wake the user. The Edison chip is used for that. It can connect via USB and send out alarms—noise, but you could also vibrate the chair or the wheel if it's integrated in the car itself.

I feel like I've heard of similar products, but none with a camera. What else is out there?
Mercedes has "lane tracking" that notices when you're switching lanes, but those are reactive rather than proactive. By the time you're swerving out of a lane, you've become pretty dangerous. There are also other products that have a sensor on the wheel itself.

Using a 3D camera is kind of new, because the whole field of 3D cameras is kind of new. It has become integrated a lot faster in recent years, but before Kinect for Xbox, it wasn't really a customer product.

People are going to think that you're using a Kinect camera now, unless you tell me why they're different.
Kinect has two cameras, but this one has three–whole field of vision and an infrared, so it can do more accurate tracking, and you can also detect hand gestures. Although, to be honest, in that area it still needs some work, because in low-light situations it might not work as well. They work, but not great yet. Consumer technology is racing along, but it's not there yet.


If you mount a really good camera on there, that increases the cost. This is where we need to wait for the technology to advance itself.

Are there privacy concerns for mounting a camera in your car?
It's a closed system; it doesn't need to send data anywhere. It's simply all on the NUC itself, or if it's integrated with the car, then you don't need to send information online at all, and would actually be better. If it doesn't need to go online then there's no latency problem.

Anything to get people awake and off the road.
That's the idea of it.

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