Search Images Maps Play YouTube News Gmail Drive More »
Sign in
Screen reader users: click this link for accessible mode. Accessible mode has the same essential features but works better with your reader.

Patents

  1. Advanced Patent Search
Publication numberUSRE41449 E1
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 12/027,879
Publication dateJul 20, 2010
Filing dateFeb 7, 2008
Priority dateOct 3, 2002
Fee statusPaid
Also published asUS6996460
Publication number027879, 12027879, US RE41449 E1, US RE41449E1, US-E1-RE41449, USRE41449 E1, USRE41449E1
InventorsNils Krahnstoever, Emilio Schapira, Rajeev Sharma, Namsoon Jung
Original AssigneeNils Krahnstoever, Emilio Schapira, Rajeev Sharma, Namsoon Jung
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Method and apparatus for providing virtual touch interaction in the drive-thru
US RE41449 E1
Abstract
The present invention is a method and apparatus for providing an enhanced automatic drive-thru experience to the customers in a vehicle by allowing use of natural hand gestures to interact with digital content. The invention is named Virtual Touch Ordering System (VTOS). In the VTOS, the virtual touch interaction is defined to be a contact free interaction, in which a user is able to select graphical objects within the digital contents on a display system and is able to control the processes connected to the graphical objects, by natural hand gestures without touching any physical devices, such as a keyboard or a touch screen. Using the virtual touch interaction of the VTOS, the user is able to complete transactions or ordering, without leaving the car and without any physical contact with the display. A plurality of Computer Vision algorithms in the VTOS processes a plurality of input image sequences from the image-capturing system that is pointed at the customers in a vehicle and performs the virtual touch interaction by natural hand gestures. The invention can increase the throughput of drive-thru interaction and reduce the delay in wait time, labor cost, and maintenance cost.
Images(10)
Previous page
Next page
Claims(31)
1. A method for interacting with a service system from inside a vehicleimplementing a transaction without physical contact with the system , the method comprising steps of :
(a) showingproviding visual information onto a person through a display,;
(b) capturing a plurality of input images of athe person, who wants to use the system,interacting with the visual information and theof a vehicle in which said person is sitting,located;
(c) processing said plurality of input images in order to extract motion information in a contact-free manner,;
(d) performing a contact-free interaction based on the extracted motion information; and that allows said person to interact with the shown visual information, and
(e) processing the interaction results of said person with said service system,
wherein the step of performingthe contact-free interaction is possibleoccurs regardless of whether a window of said vehicle's window is open or closed.
2. The method according to claim 1, wherein the step ofperforming the contact-free interaction comprises:
processing the interaction results involvesextracted motion information; and
updating said visual information on athe display based at least in part on the processing of the extracted motion information, wherein the visual information is updated when said person is looking at the display system .
3. The method according to claim 1, wherein the step of showing visual information on a display further comprises a step for showing elements that can be selected or manipulated by the contact-free interaction,
whereby said visual information can be shown on an electronic display or on a static display board,
whereby said visual information shows products orincludes at least one of a menu or food items for purchase. , and
whereby exemplary embodiments of said elements can be menus, graphical depictions of buttons, and icons.
4. The method according to claim 1, wherein the step of capturing said plurality of input images of the person and the contact-free interaction further comprises a step forare captured using one or a plurality of image-capturing devices. for the capturing.
5. The method according to claim 1, wherein the contact-free interaction further comprises a step for allowing a certain degree of spatial freedom in parking said vehicle and interacting with the system by said person,
whereby the spatial freedom can be realizedplurality of input images are captured in an exemplary maximum interaction range volume and an exemplaryan optimal interaction volume in a virtual space, which change according to thewherein a position of the optimal interaction volume is based at least in part on a physical dimension of the person in the vehicle and a physical dimension of the vehicle.
6. The method according to claim 1, wherein the method further comprises a step foring adjusting the main content display region in the display system according to the vehicle's parking position and said person's height,
whereby the adjustment makes said person easier to interact with the system even if various vehicle have different heights depending on the type of the vehicle, and
whereby the other parts of the display screen, where the main content is not shown, can be used for advertisement or promotion.a position of the visual information on the display based at least in part on a position of the vehicle and at least in part on a position of the person in the vehicle.
7. The method according to claim 1, wherein the step of processing the interaction results further comprises a step forfurther comprising collecting a plurality of data about at least one of said person andor the contact-free interaction,
whereby exemplary statistics gathered by the data collection can include, thewherein the collected data includes at least one of an amount of time to finish the contact-free interaction, the division of people ina demographic groupsof the person, the traffic measurement, such as traffic composition by time of day, day of week, and demographic shifts, and theor customer behavior. , such as the time spent at a particular item selection screen or whether purchases are made or not.
8. The method according to claim 1, wherein the step of processing said plurality of input images in order to extract motion information in a contact-free manner further comprises a step for processing the detection of said person's vehicle and a localization of the vehiclefurther comprising identifying a location of the window of the vehicle.
9. The method according to claim 1, wherein the step of processing said plurality of input images in order to extract motion information in a contact-free manner further comprises a step for performingare captured using face detection and hand tracking.
10. The method according to claim 1, wherein the step of performing interaction further comprises a step for allowing said person to purchase food items or non-food items, such as pharmaceuticals, or where it is designed to provide services, such as banking, using the contact-free interface.contact-free interaction comprises at least one of a food order, a pharmaceutical order, or a banking transaction.
11. An apparatus for interacting with a service system from inside a vehicle without physical contact with the systemimplementing a transaction without physical contact, comprising:
(a) means for showingproviding visual information,to a person in a vehicle;
(b) means for capturing a plurality of input images of athe person, who wants to use the system,interacting with the visual information and of the vehicle; in which said person is sitting,
(c) means for processing said plurality of input images in order to extract motion information in a contact-free manner,
(d) means for performing a contact-free interaction based on the extracted motion information; and that allows said person to interact with the shown visual information, and
(e) means for processing the interaction results of said person with said service system,
wherein the means for performing contact-free interaction is possibleperformed regardless of whether said vehicle'sa window of the vehicle is open or closed.
12. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the means forfurther comprising processing the interaction results involvesextracted motion information and updating said visual information when said person is looking at the means for showing visual information.based on the extracted motion information.
13. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the means for showing visual information further comprises means for showing elements that canconfigured to be selected or manipulated by the contact-free interaction,
whereby said visual information can be shown on means for electronic display or means for static display,
whereby said visual information shows products or food items for purchase, and
whereby exemplary embodiments of said elements can be menus, graphical depictions of buttons, and icons.person.
14. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the means for capturing said plurality of input images of the person and the contact-free interaction further comprises means for using one or a plurality of image-capturing devices for the capturing.
15. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the contact-free interaction further comprises means for allowing a certain degree of spatial freedom in parking said vehicle and interacting with the system by said person,
whereby the spatial freedom can be realized in an exemplaryvisual information is provided to the person within a maximum interaction range volume, and an exemplary optimal interaction volume in a virtual space, which change according to thewherein the maximum interaction range volume is based at least in part on a physical dimension of the person in the vehicle and the vehicle.
16. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the apparatus further comprisesing means for adjusting a position of the main content display region in the means for showing visual information according to the vehicle's parking position and said person's height,
whereby the adjustment makes said person easier to interact with the system even if various vehicle have different heights depending on the type of the vehicle, and
whereby the other parts of the display screen, where the main content is not shown, can be used for advertisement or promotion.based at least in part on a position of the vehicle.
17. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the means for processing the interaction results further comprisesing means for collecting a plurality of data about saidrelated to at least one of the person and the contact-free interaction, whereby exemplary statistics gathered by the data collection can include, thewherein the data includes at least one of an amount of time to finish the contact-free interaction, the division of people ina demographic groupsof the person, thean amount of traffic measurement , such asa traffic composition, or by time of day, day of week, and demographic shifts, and the customer behavior. , such as the time spent at a particular item selection screen or whether purchases are made or not.
18. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein thefurther comprising means for processing said plurality of input images in order to extract motion information in a contact-free manner further comprises means for processing the detection of said person's vehicle and a localization of the vehicle window.identifying a location of the window of the vehicle, wherein the location of the window is used to locate the person.
19. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the means for processing said plurality of input images in order to extract motion information in a contact-free manner further comprisesfurther comprising means for performing face detection and hand tracking of the person.
20. The apparatus according to claim 11, wherein the means for performingcontact-free interaction further comprises means for allowing said person to purchase food items or non-food items, such as pharmaceuticals, or where it is designed to provide services, such as banking, using the contact-free interface.at least one of a food order, a pharmaceutical order, or a banking transaction.
21. An apparatus for implementing a contact-free interaction, the apparatus comprising:
a display system configured to provide visual information to a person in a vehicle;
an image-capturing system configured to capture one or more images of the vehicle and one or more images of the person interacting with the visual information in a contact-free manner; and
a processing and control system configured to
process the one or more images of the person to identify a selection of the person corresponding to the visual information; and
perform a contact-free interaction with the person based on the selection, wherein the contact-free interaction occurs regardless of whether a window of the vehicle is open or closed.
22. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the visual information is provided on a display, and further wherein a position of the person relative to the visual information is indicated as a visual stimulus on the display.
23. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the processing and control system processes the one or more images of the person using real-time gesture recognition technology.
24. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the processing and control system is further configured to identify a position of the window of the vehicle based at least in part on the one or more images of the vehicle, and further wherein the display system is configured to position the visual information based at least in part on the position of the window.
25. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the processing and control system is further configured to:
identify a silhouette of the vehicle using background subtraction;
identify a main color of the vehicle based at least in part on the silhouette;
identify a portion of the vehicle which does not include the main color of the vehicle; and
identify the portion of the vehicle as the window of the vehicle using edge detection and geometrical information regarding the vehicle.
26. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the processing and control system is further configured to identify a level of eyesight of the person, and further wherein the display system is configured to position the visual information based at least in part on the level of eyesight.
27. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the one or more images of the person are captured in an interaction range volume, and further wherein the interaction range volume is identified based at least in part on a level of eyesight of the person, a physical dimension of the person, a physical dimension of the vehicle, or a location of the window of the vehicle.
28. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the processing and control system is further configured to determine if the person is looking at the visual information, and further wherein the display system is configured to modify the visual information based at least in part on whether the person is looking at the visual information.
29. A method for implementing a contact-free interaction, the method comprising:
identifying a vehicle and a person in the vehicle with an image-capturing device;
providing visual information to the person through a display;
identifying a hand gesture of the person, wherein the hand gesture does not involve contact with the display;
identifying, based on the hand gesture, a selection from the person corresponding to the visual information; and
implementing a contact-free transaction based on the selection, wherein the contact-free transaction occurs regardless of whether a window of the vehicle is open or closed.
30. The method of claim 29, wherein a position of the visual information on the display is based at least in part on a level of eyesight of the person, a physical dimension of the person, a physical dimension of the vehicle, or a location of the window of the vehicle.
31. The method of claim 29, further comprising identifying a position of the window based at least in part on a silhouette of the vehicle.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is based on anda Reissue application of U.S. Ser. No. 10/679,226, filed Oct. 2, 2003, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,996,460, granted Feb. 7, 2006, which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/415,690, filed Oct. 3, 2002, which is fully incorporated herein by reference.

FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH

Not Applicable

SEQUENCE LISTING OR PROGRAM

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION—FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a method and apparatus for providing an enhanced automatic drive-thru experience to customers in a vehicle with a virtual touch interaction by natural hand gesture with digital information, while efficiently increasing the throughput of the drive-thru interaction and reducing the delay in wait time, labor cost, and maintenance cost. The present invention provides a ‘contact free’ method for performing the virtual touch interaction, by means of an analysis of images from image-capturing sensors, such as video cameras, that are oriented towards the user.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

One of the prior arts for the drive-thru system involves one or more people in the store interacting with the driver of the vehicle remotely. This interaction is commonly performed by means of a two-way speaker and microphone, with a window where a person is waiting to attend the user. Inconsistent speed, accuracy and customer experience, which can occur throughout the traditional drive-thru process, pose unique challenges for corporate planners. The length of queue, the appearance of the menu board, delay of initial greeting, speaker clarity, communication between the consumer and the order taker, communication between the order taker and order fulfillment, the payment process, order delivery and accuracy are all critical stages in delivering the customer experience. Miscommunications due to language barriers, speaker or microphone malfunction, or just plain poor attitudes can combine to create a very unpleasant customer experience. Re-engineering of the drive-thru process must take place if they are expected to keep pace with the increasing demand and desires of the general public.

This traditional drive-thru system has inherent inefficiency of wait time in the interaction process. In order to solve this problem, some approaches have been attempted. For example, the three-window idea, one window each for ordering, payment, and pick-up, has been widely used in the quick-service restaurant, and it could decrease the inefficiency to some degree. However, this method results in having more attendants with the three windows and relevant building construction cost. This method is also not easily adaptable to the other type of drive-thru interaction process than that of the quick-service restaurant. For example, the drive-thru bank will not need three-windows for its transaction.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,026,375 of Hall et al. disclosed a method and apparatus for processing orders from customers in a mobile environment, trying to provide a solution for the inefficiencies of the drive-thru. While they have interesting and versatile approaches to the drive-thru process, the customers in the vehicle need to have mobile access to the network, which could require extra cost and burden to the customer. Unless enough people within the local area have mobile access to the network mentioned in the U.S. Pat. No. 6,026,375 of Hall et al., there is a possibility that the network might not be utilized. Also, signals of mobile access, such as cell phones, weaken, depending upon the location, weather condition, etc. Hence, the reliability of such a system is a question. Finally, since the interface is not natural (i.e., the user has to select from a large menu using the alpha-numeric keypad), there are issues of delay.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,168,354 of Martinez et al. disclosed a fast food drive-thru video communication system. While this approach tries to improve the drive-thru interaction using the video communication system in addition to the conventional voice only drive-thru system, allowing the customer to maintain eye-to-eye visual contact with the attendant located within the restaurant, the approach is still not able to solve the delay of interaction problem for the plurality of customers and vehicles.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,884,662 of Cho et al. disclosed a method of operating a driver interaction service center with a plurality of collection stations for dispensing services, and a plurality of driveways. While the suggested method increases the throughput of the interaction process, it also results in hiring more attendants or order-takers for each station, thus increasing labor costs.

Using the automatic systems, such as a touch screen system or a keypad with a digital display, which is, for example, commonly embodied in automatic teller machines, could reduce the labor costs. However, these systems result in maintenance and hygiene issues since the drivers touch the system physically. The touch-screen display is fixed and, therefore, cannot adapt to the various sizes of vehicles and arm lengths of people. This would be devastating to the fast food drive-thru industry with the increase in order time alone. This also causes difficulty in parking the vehicle, as it needs to be close to the system as possible in order for the driver to be able to touch the screen, stretching the hand to the device. This is ergonomically inappropriate because it is not only uncomfortable to the driver but also could cause damage to the system. If the driver has to step out of the vehicle to use the automatic systems, this will result in more delay and inconvenience to the customer. Other solutions include a device that the user can put inside the vehicle, such as a keypad, or track ball; however, these also involve disadvantages of hygienic issues and durability.

The present invention is named Virtual Touch Ordering System (VTOS). The VTOS can overcome the limitations of these prior art drive-thru systems and provide improved automatic drive-thru experience to the customers with convenient interface and digital information while efficiently increasing the throughput of the drive-thru interaction and profitability. The present invention provides a ‘contact free’ method for performing the interaction, by means of an analysis of images from image-capturing sensors, such as video cameras, that are oriented towards the user.

Virtually no human labor is necessary in taking orders or making most transactions with the VTOS, since it is a fully automated system. In the case of some transactions where human involvement is indispensable, such as certain kind of bank transaction, the VTOS can reduce the number of attendants greatly, thus reducing overall drive-thru labor costs. Reducing maintenance costs could be one of the big advantages in the VTOS drive-thru system. The nature of virtual touch capability of the VTOS avoids the wear and tear losses of the system, thus reducing the maintenance cost over time. The virtual touch interaction capability also enhances the customer experience by allowing more customized interaction. The VTOS can provide easy to learn graphical user interface for the digital contents.

SUMMARY

In an exemplary embodiment, the VTOS can be comprised of a housing (enclosure), a plurality of the image-capturing system, a display system, a processing and controlling system, a lighting system, a drive-thru ceiling structure, and a sound system (hidden in the enclosure). The processing and controlling system is connected to the image-capturing system, the display system, and the sound system. The image-capturing system is defined to be a system with plurality of image-capturing devices, such as cameras, frame grabbers and all relevant peripherals, in the VTOS. Lighting system and drive-thru ceiling structure help the VTOS to process the user detection and the contact-free interaction by helping computer vision technology operate more reliably. The lighting system and the drive-thru ceiling structure is not the essential part of the VTOS, but they belong to the VTOS as the environmental set up, in a broader concept.

Generally the implementation of the VTOS makes transitions within a series of interaction states, which are listed as follows.

    • Wait State.
    • Interaction Initiation State.
    • Driver Interaction State.
    • Interaction Termination State

The transition between the different states of the VTOS is summarized as follows.

The VTOS is in a default Wait State when there is no driver in the vicinity of the system. When a vehicle approaches and is parked nearby the system and a driver is detected by the face/vehicle detection technology, the Interaction Initiation State starts. At the Interaction Initiation State, the VTOS can display a welcome message or brief introduction about how to use the system. The image-capturing system for hand detection and tracking, either left or right hand, analyzes the driver's movements and gestures. A plurality of images from the image-capturing system of the VTOS is analyzed by a processing and controlling system to interpret the user's actions, such as position of the limbs (hand, arm, etc.) and gestures (defined by temporal location of the limbs or particular postures).

For the face detection, any robust, reliable, and efficient face detection method can be used. In U.S. Pat. No. 6,184,926 of Khosravi et al. and U.S. Pat. No. 6,404,900 of Qian et al., the authors disclosed methods for human face detection. In M. H. Yang, D. J. Kriegman, and N. Ahuja, “Detecting Faces in Images: A Survey,” IEEE Trans. Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, vol. 24, no. 1, January 2002, the authors describe various approaches for the face detection. In the exemplary embodiment of the invention, a neural network based face detector or SVM based face detection method may be used. H. Rowley, S. Baluja, and T. Kanade, “Neural Network-Based Face Detection,” IEEE Trans. Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 23-38, January 1998, explains about the neural network based face detector in more details. E. Osuna, R. Freund, and F. Girosi, “Training Support Vector Machines: An Application to Face Detection,” Proc. IEEE Conf. Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, pp. 130-136, 1997 explains about the SVM based face detection approach in more details.

The VTOS detects the vehicle and the position of the vehicle window, which is used to define the Maximum Interaction Range Volume and the Optimal Interaction Volume, which is the region in real world 3D space that is tracked and mapped to find the hand location. The maximum interaction range volume and the optimal interaction volume of the VTOS are virtual space, which change according to the physical dimension of the driver and the vehicle. Since the volumes change according to the position of the driver and vehicle, some degree of freedom for the motion is possible. This is helpful and necessary for the contact-free interaction process by the VTOS, because the vehicles can be parked in random position within the vicinity of the VTOS units.

The maximum interaction range volume shows the maximum range, in which the driver can interact with the VTOS. The VTOS is able to detect and enable the driver's hand gesture for the contact-free interaction within this region. However, in most cases, the driver will feel comfortable in interacting with the VTOS within the optimal interaction volume because of the physical limitation in the range of movement a driver can reach with his or her hand. The optimal interaction volume is a sub volume that is located according to the position of the window of the vehicle in the maximum interaction range volume. This volume will preferably be located such that the user can use either the left or the right hand in a natural way.

When the driver actually engages with the Driver Interaction State, the VTOS provides the digital content for taking orders or completing transactions through the display system. The user points with his hand to the screen to make selections among the displayed digital content. The design of the digital content widely depends on the owner or designer of the particular embodiment of the VTOS, since the VTOS can be used for any drive-thru interaction, such as taking orders and completing transactions in a drive-thru bank, photo center, and quick service restaurant. Generally the overall content of the VTOS comprises a welcome message, plurality of selection screens and main content, and the exit screen. When the customer points to the display with his or her hand, the VTOS shows a visual feedback on the screen of the display system to the user as to where the system is interpreting the hand location.

The contact-free interface can be implemented using any of the reliable real-time gesture recognition technology in the computer vision. One example of the contact-free interface is explained in detail by R. Sharma, N. Krahnstoever, and E. Schapira, “Method and System for Detecting Conscious Hand Movement Patterns and Computer-generated Visual Feedback for Facilitating Human-computer Interaction”, U.S. Provisional Patent 60/369,279, Apr. 2, 2002.

When the user finishes the interaction, the VTOS goes into the Interaction Termination State. In this state, the VTOS can display a brief parting message, such as “Thank you. Come again!” message, confirmation message, or any relevant content, which signals to the user the end of the interaction and lets the driver know what to do next as the result of the final interaction, such as displaying “Proceed to the next window!” message or “Be careful when you exit!” message. When the interaction is terminated, the VTOS goes back to the initial Wait State and looks for the next driver.

Additional features of the VTOS are summarized as follows.

The location and number of the image-capturing system and the location of the display system for the present invention could be in multiple places around the vehicle as long as the driver is able to see the display system and the VTOS can see the driver's hand motion. The system can track the hand of the user when it is located outside or inside the vehicle, therefore giving the option to the user of interacting with the display without opening the vehicle window.

Different types of vehicles could have different heights. Different drivers in the same type of vehicle can also have different heights. In order to make the virtual touch interaction more comfortable and reliable, the VTOS can adjust the height of the display region according to the level of eyesight of the driver using the computer vision technology. Using the eye level, the main content can be positioned in the corresponding level within the display screen. The other parts of the display screen, where the main content is not shown, can be used for advertisement or promotional display. The VTOS also detects if the user is looking at the display, and further instructions can be presented only if the user is looking at the display to ensure the customer's attention.

The VTOS is able to collect data using computer vision algorithms and analyze the results of the ordered items and customer behaviors in selection processes, which can be saved after customers finish the interaction of giving orders and other transactions.

The data gathering services utilize computer vision technologies to provide visibility to customer traffic, composition, and behavior. This is explained in detail by R. Sharma and A. Castellano, “Method for augmenting transaction data with visually extracted demographics of people using computer vision”, U.S. Provisional Patent, 60/402,817, Aug. 12, 2002, and by R. Sharma and T. Castellano, “Automatic detection and aggregation of demographics and behavior of people using computer vision”, U.S. Provisional Patent, 60/399,246, Jul. 29, 2002. These services include detection of customers, their classification into segments based on demographics, and the capture of information about their interaction with the VTOS. The exemplary statistics gathered by the VTOS can include;

    • the amount of time that is spent to finish the interaction in the drive-thru;
    • the division of people in demographic groups, including gender, race, broad age group;
    • the traffic measurement, such as traffic composition by time of day, day of week, and demographic shifts; and the customer behavior, such as the time spent at a particular item selection screen or whether the purchases are made or not.

So far a single housing unit model of the VTOS is summarized. However, the VTOS can also comprise multiple housing units, which are organized in pipeline and/or parallel in order to perform multiple transactions at the same time, similar to the schemes of a gas station. Overall, this model increases the throughput of the drive-thru, decreasing the average wait time per customer. For the case of certain transactions, such as the bank transaction, which could specifically require human attendant's involvement, the design of the VTOS could be modified in a way such as to minimize the number of attendants.

DRAWINGS—FIGURES

FIG. 1 is an overall view of the VTOS.

FIG. 2 is an overall view of the VTOS from the top.

FIG. 3 is a model of VTOS representing multiple units of the housing, organized in pipeline and parallel in order to perform several transactions at the same time.

FIG. 4 is a state diagram of the VTOS, which shows the processes according to the driver interaction.

FIG. 5 shows the exemplary Maximum Interaction Range Volume and the exemplary Optimal Interaction Volume of the VTOS.

FIG. 6 shows an exemplary method for vehicle detection for the VTOS.

FIG. 7 shows that VTOS dynamically changes the digital content display region within the vertically elongated display system using the height detection capability.

FIG. 8 shows an exemplary screen shot of the digital content of the VTOS in the context of Quick Service Restaurant.

FIG. 9 shows another exemplary screen shot of the digital content of the VTOS in the context of Quick Service Restaurant.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 shows the overall view of the VTOS. In this particular exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the VTOS consists of a housing (enclosure) 100, plurality of the image-capturing system 110, a display system 111, and a sound system 113 (hidden in the enclosure). The processing and controlling system 112 is connected to these peripheral sub-systems, such as the image-capturing system 110, the display system 111, and the sound system 113, as in the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 2. The image-capturing system 110 is defined to be a system with plurality of image-capturing devices, such as cameras, frame grabbers and all relevant peripherals, in the VTOS. The processing and controlling system 112 can be installed inside the housing 100 in the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1, or it can be installed in a remote place within the restaurant building or any of its surrounding areas, where the system can be securely and efficiently placed. The owner or designer of the particular VTOS can decide how the processing and controlling system 112 is connected with the peripheral sub-systems. If the owner or designer of the particular VTOS chooses to have the conventional vocal drive-thru interaction method as one of the interaction options for the customers, a microphone can be attached to the VTOS. It can be used as one of the input modalities although it will be the secondary interaction modality in the VTOS. As in the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the VTOS allows the customer inside a vehicle 600 select the items from the main digital content displayed through the display system 111 of the VTOS using the contact-free interface 304 within the interaction volume 430. Lighting system 117 and drive-thru ceiling structure 601 help the VTOS to process the user detection and the contact-free interaction 304 by helping computer vision technology operate more reliably. The lighting system 117 and the drive-thru ceiling structure 601 is not the essential part of the VTOS, but they belong to the VTOS as the environmental set up, in a broader concept.

FIG. 2 is a view of the VTOS and a driver interacting with it, as viewed from the top. As in the exemplary embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the apparatus of the invention could comprise the processing and controlling system 112, a display system 111, a sound system 113, and one or more visual sensors, the plurality of the image-capturing system 110. In this particular embodiment, two image-capturing systems are used for hand detection and tracking, either left or right hand, and one for human face detection and tracking. FIG. 2 also shows the virtual components of the system, which are the Maximum Interaction Range Volume 431, and the Optimal Interaction Volume 432. These volumes are explained in more detail in FIG. 5. To use the system more efficiently, it is desirable to have the vehicle 600 parked as close to the display as possible, so that the Maximum interaction range volume 431 contains the range of hand movements in real world coordinates.

Once the vehicle 600 is parked in the vicinity of the system, a driver is detected by the face detection technology. For the face detection, any robust, reliable, and efficient face detection method can be used. In U.S. Pat. No. 6,184,926 of Khosravi et al. and U.S. Pat. No. 6,404,900 of Qian et al., the authors disclosed methods for human face detection. In M. H. Yang, D. J. Kriegman, and N. Ahuja, “Detecting Faces in Images: A Survey,” IEEE Trans. Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, vol. 24, no. 1, January 2002, the authors describe various approaches for the face detection. In the exemplary embodiment, a neural network based face detector or SVM based face detection method may be used. H. Rowley, S. Baluja, and T. Kanade, “Neural Network-Based Face Detection,” IEEE Trans. Pattern Analysis and Machine Intelligence, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 23-38, Jan. 1998, explains about the neural network based face detector in more details. E. Osuna, R. Freund, and F. Girosi, “Training Support Vector Machines: An Application to Face Detection,” Proc. IEEE Conf. Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, pp. 130-136, 1997 explains about the SVM based face detection approach in more details.

At this state, the image-capturing systems 110 for hand detection and tracking analyze the driver's movements and gestures. The VTOS detects the vehicle 600 and the position of the window, which is used to define the optimal interaction volume 432 that is the region in real world 3D space that is tracked and mapped to find the hand location. Other information obtained from the image-capturing system 110 is the height of the vehicle 600, which is used to modify the information presented on the display, or the location of the display itself, in order to gain comfort for the user to watch and interact. By means of the image-capturing system 110 for face, the VTOS detects if the user is looking at the display, and consequently starts a short salutation and instruction video. Further instructions can also be presented only if the user is looking at the display.

The location and number of the image-capturing systems 110 and the location of the display system 111 for the present invention could be different from those shown in the exemplary embodiment in FIG. 2. An alternative location for the display can be in front of the windshield of the vehicle 600. In this embodiment, the sensors, image-capturing system 110, could be located in front of the vehicle 600, and the user can interact from the inside of the vehicle 600 using the contact-free interaction 304 without opening a window.

When the customer points to the display with his or her hand, the VTOS shows a visual stimulus on the display screen that provides feedback to the user as to where the system is interpreting the hand location. Then the user can point to region of the screen to select items. For the exemplary embodiment, the selection can be made by pointing to the same location and holding the hand for a predefined period of time (e.g.: 1 second). The display system screen will display a Graphical User Interface (GUI) with selectable areas such as buttons. The contact-free interface allows the user to make selections using the GUI. The contact-free interface can be implemented using any of the reliable real-time gesture recognition technology in the computer vision. The exemplary embodiment of the VTOS shown in FIG. 2 can use the contact-free interaction 304 method explained in detail by R. Sharma, N. Krahnstoever, and E. Schapira, “Method and System for Detecting Conscious Hand Movement Patterns and Computer-generated Visual Feedback for Facilitating Human-computer Interaction”, U.S. Provisional Patent 60/369,279, Apr. 2, 2002. The content of the screen widely depends on the particular embodiment of the VTOS.

FIG. 3 shows another exemplary embodiment of the VTOS. As shown in FIG. 3, the VTOS could comprise multiple housing units 100, which are organized in pipeline and/or parallel in order to perform multiple transactions at the same time, similar to a gas station. This model increases the overall throughput of the drive-thru, decreasing the average wait time per customer. One of the difficulties of having pipelined and parallel drive-thru units in the conventional drive-thru system with voice only interaction was the cost of hiring as many attendants or order takers as the number of the drive-thru interaction units. However, with the exemplary embodiment of the pipelined and parallel model of the VTOS shown in FIG. 3, extra cost for hiring more attendants or order takers is not necessary. Virtually, no human labor is needed with the VTOS for taking orders and most transactions. All the orders and transactions can be made by the plurality of the VTOS units 100 and these interaction results are sent to the people in the building, such as the food preparation team of the quick service restaurant, directly through the central server and its results on monitor screen inside the relevant building.

For the case of certain transactions, such as the bank transaction, which could specifically require human attendant's involvement, the design of the VTOS could be modified in a way such as to minimize the number of attendants. For example, a window with human attendant can be dedicated for the specific transaction, which requires human labor, as it is done now in the conventional drive-thru systems, and allow the plurality of the VTOS units to other parts of the drive-thru facility for the automated drive-thru interactions. This will increase the overall throughput of the drive-thru and decrease the average wait time per customer.

In the exemplary pipelined and parallel model of the VTOS shown in the FIG. 3, the sequence of the final interaction from the plurality of the units could be random. For example, in the exemplary pipelined and parallel model of the VTOS shown in the FIG. 3, any one of the 4 drivers in the vehicles 600 interacting with the VTOS units could finish the interaction first. The second, the third, and the fourth final interaction could be from any of the rest of the VTOS units, depending on the particular drivers' interaction behaviors, such as the individuals' various desire for specific items on the selection choices and personal interaction time with the VTOS unit. These random interaction results can be received in a central server according to the timed final interaction sequences and processed in the sequence in which they are received.

For this particular model of VTOS, how to proceed to the next window, such as payment and pickup window, from the interaction (ordering) station has to be designed carefully in order to avoid the traffic in the interval between the interaction (ordering) station and the next window, (payment and pickup window). The methods of such control can be varied depending on the setup of the particular restaurant, such as the number of the payment window and the number of the pickup window. For example, when there is a single payment window and a single pickup window, (they could be further combined in one window), the vehicles 600 can be released from the interaction (ordering) station in the order the interactions (orders) are made. For this approach, physical structures, such as light signals attached to the VTOS unit, could be used to signal the vehicle 600 to proceed to the payment and pickup window. The display system 111 of the VTOS could also be used as the traffic controller, by displaying traffic control messages, such as “Please, Wait!” or “Please, Move forward!” When there are multiple payment windows and multiple pickup windows, the vehicles 600 in each pipeline can be released to its own payment window and pickup window, designated to the specific pipeline. However, for this method, additional cost for having multiple windows and food conveyer system might be needed.

Overall the exemplary pipelined and parallel model of the VTOS shown in the FIG. 3 may require more physical space, where the vehicle 600 access to the interaction (ordering) station and out of the interaction (ordering) station should be possible very easily, so that multiple drivers can park their vehicles 600 and interact with the VTOS. However, the maximum interaction range volume 431 and the optimal interaction volume 432 of the VTOS, which will be explained later, allow some degree of freedom to the driver for parking and interaction with the VTOS units.

FIG. 4 is a state diagram of the VTOS, which shows the processes according to the driver interaction. The VTOS is in a default Wait State 610 when there is no driver in the vicinity of the system. When a vehicle 600 is parked nearby the system and a driver is detected 640 by the face detection of the computer vision technology, the Interaction Initiation State 611 is started. At the Interaction Initiation State 611, the VTOS can display welcome message or brief introduction about how to use the system. When the driver actually engages to the Driver Interaction State 612, the VTOS provides the digital content for ordering or transaction through the display system 111. When the user finishes the interaction, the VTOS goes into the Interaction Termination State 613. In this state, the VTOS can display a brief parting comment like “Thank you. Come again!” message or any relevant content, which signals the user to the end of the interaction and lets the driver know what to do next as the result of the final interaction, such as displaying “Proceed to the next window!” message. When the interaction is terminated, the VTOS goes back to the initial Wait State 610 and prepares for the next driver.

FIG. 5 shows the exemplary maximum interaction range volume 431 and the exemplary optimal interaction volume 432 of the VTOS. The maximum interaction range volume 431 and the optimal interaction volume 432 of the VTOS are virtual space, which change according to the physical dimension of the driver and the vehicle 600. The position and size of the virtual spaces can be approximated by the relevant position of the user and the size of the vehicle 600 window.

Since the volumes change according to the position of the driver and vehicle 600, some degree of freedom for the motion is possible. This is helpful and necessary for the contact-free interaction 304 and the overall interaction process by the VTOS, because the vehicles 600 can be parked in random position within the vicinity of the VTOS units. If the image-capturing system 110 is static, the maximum interaction range volume 431 can reside within the field of view 320 of the image-capturing system 110. If the image-capturing system 110 is dynamic, which can dynamically adjust the pan and tilt of the image-capturing device, the maximum interaction range volume 431 can extend further.

The maximum interaction range volume 431 shows the maximum range, in which the driver can interact with the VTOS. The maximum interaction range volume 431 is used to define the total area that can be used to track the face and hand. It is approximately located within the intersection of the image-capturing system 110 field of views 320, which in turn is defined by the orientation and field of view 320 of the image-capturing system 110 for the hand detection and tracking. The VTOS is able to detect and enable the driver's hand gesture based contact-free interaction 304 within this region. However, in most cases, the driver will feel comfortable in interacting with the VTOS within the optimal interaction volume 432 because of the physical constraints. There is a limitation in the range of movement a driver can reach with his or her hand, so the optimal interaction volume 432 are decided by the position of the driver's face, where the person could interact with the VTOS comfortably.

The optimal interaction volume 432 is mainly used to detect the hand position, and the contact-free interaction 304 is accomplished within this volume. It is a sub volume that is located according to the position of the window of the vehicle 600 in the maximum interaction range volume 431. If no window is present, the volume will be located according to the head position of the customer. To detect the position of the window, the vehicle 600 is analyzed by a computer vision technology as shown in FIG. 6. The silhouette 352 of the vehicle image 650 is determined using background subtraction. In the C. Stauffer and W. E. L Grimson, Adaptive Background Mixture Models for Real-Time Tracking, In Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, volume 2, pages 246-253, June 1999, the authors describe a method for modeling background in more detail. Using the silhouette 352 and knowledge about typical vehicle geometries, the main color of the vehicle 651 is determined from the front section of the vehicle 600. With the knowledge about the vehicle's color 651, those regions of the vehicle silhouette 352 that do not have the same color as the vehicle 600 can be determined 652. What remain are different parts of the vehicle 600 that do not share the same color as the body of the vehicle 600, such as the wheels and the window region 653. Finally, using edge detection and prior geometrical knowledge, the region that constitutes the driver window 653 is determined.

Then, the location and size of the optimal interaction volume 432 will be defined to optimize ergonomics (i.e., comfort and efficiency). This volume will preferably be located such that the user can use either the left or the right hand in a natural way.

FIG. 7 shows the VTOS dynamically changes the digital content display region within the vertically elongated display system 111 using the height detection capability.

The VTOS system can adjust the main content display region 532 in the display system 111 according to the user's height. Different type of vehicles 600 could have different heights. For example, the passenger cars usually have a lower height than SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicle). Different drivers in the same type of vehicle 600 can also have different heights. In order to make the virtual touch interaction more comfortable and reliable, the VTOS can adjust the height of the digital display region according to the level of eyesight of the driver in the field of view 320 using the computer vision technology, such as the face detection. For this functionality, the enclosure 100 of the VTOS can be equipped with vertically elongated display screens. For example, the display system 111 can position the display screen in a portrait style or use plurality of the normal display screens in a landscape style put together on top of another, in which the plurality of the display screens eventually make the entire screen a portrait style display screen. Using the eye level of the user, the main content display region 532 can be positioned in the corresponding level within the display screen. The other parts 550 of the display screen, where the main content is not shown, can be used for advertisement or promotional display for cross selling and up selling.

The design of the digital content widely depends on the owner or designer of the particular embodiment of the VTOS. The VTOS can be used for any drive-thru interaction, such as completing orders and transactions in a drive-thru bank, photo center, and quick service restaurant. Generally the overall content of the VTOS comprises welcome message, plurality of selection screens, and the exit screen. FIG. 8 shows an exemplary screen shot of the digital content of the VTOS in the context of quick service restaurant. FIG. 9 shows another exemplary screen shot of the digital content of the VTOS in the context of quick service restaurant.

In order to make the selection process more customizable, the maneuver button such as the back button 247 can be added. The title 554 could show the current position within the selection process. It could contain the conventional fast-food ordering items, such as food menu buttons 620 and soft drink menu buttons 621. Quantity of the items 624, size of the items 622, and total 623 of the ordered food can be shown to the user also. The user is able to change the quantity of the items using the quantity change buttons 625. The digital display contents clearly help the customers what they ordered. They can cancel and go back to the previous menu and make changes in their order. The selection process is done by the contact-free interaction 304. Through the contact-free interaction 304, the user is able to experience a new and exciting way of interacting with the ordering and transaction system. The buttons have to be easily noticeable as selectable items on the screen, to the customers.

After the customer completes the interaction, ordering or transactions, the VTOS can provide an exit screen. The content of the exit screen can be in any form, which informs the customer the end of the interaction, such as “Thank you. Come again!” message or “Proceed to the Payment and Pick up Window!” message.

The VTOS is able to collect the data using the computer vision algorithms, such as demographic classification, and analyzing the results of the ordered items and customer behaviors in selection processes, which can be saved after customers finish the interaction of making orders and transactions. This is the implicit way of collecting the data about the user, without requiring any user involvement in the data collection.

The data gathering services utilize computer vision technologies to provide visibility to customer traffic, composition, and behavior. This is explained in detail by R. Sharma and A. Castellano, “Method for augmenting transaction data with visually extracted demographics of people using computer vision”, U.S. Provisional Patent, 60/402,817, Aug. 12, 2002, and by R. Sharma and T. Castellano, “Automatic detection and aggregation of demographics and behavior of people using computer vision”, U.S. Provisional Patent, 60/399,246, Jul. 29, 2002. These services include detection of customers, their classification into segments based on demographics, and the capture of information about their interaction with the VTOS. The exemplary statistics gathered by the VTOS can include;

    • the amount of time that is spent to finish the interaction;
    • the division of people in demographic groups, including gender, race, broad age group;
    • the traffic measurement, such as traffic composition by time of day, day of week, and demographic shifts; and
    • the customer behavior, such as the time spent at a particular item selection screen or whether the purchases are made or not.

This data collection in the VTOS enables immediate feedback of marketing initiatives, better understanding of customer behavior, and automated means of measurement. Retailers are constantly seeking to unlock the secrets to customer behavior, captivating them with meaningful communications in order to convert them into buyers of products and services. The data collection based on the computer vision technologies in the VTOS can provide the solutions for this business needs to make informed business decisions. The VTOS goes back to the initial Welcome Screen and starts look for next customer after the final interaction is made.

While the invention has been illustrated and described in detail, in the drawings and foregoing description, such an illustration and description is to be considered as exemplary and not restrictive in character, it being understood that only the preferred embodiment has been shown and described and that all changes and modifications that come within the spirit of the invention are desired to be protected.

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4392119Jun 15, 1981Jul 5, 1983U.S. Computer Systems, Inc.Apparatus and method for monitoring the arrival and duration of stay of a vehicle at a drive-in window
US4638312Oct 25, 1985Jan 20, 1987Ncr CorporationOrder entry system including an interactive menu display
US4675515Mar 4, 1986Jun 23, 1987Lucero James LDrive-through credit card payment device
US4735289May 12, 1986Apr 5, 1988Anthony KenyonDispensing apparatus and deposit apparatus for drive up machines
US4862639May 13, 1988Sep 5, 1989Brampton Enterprises, Inc.Drive-in window
US4884662Mar 30, 1988Dec 5, 1989Carousel CommonsDriver interaction service center and method of operating such a center
US4975960Jun 3, 1985Dec 4, 1990Petajan Eric DElectronic facial tracking and detection system and method and apparatus for automated speech recognition
US5012522Dec 8, 1988Apr 30, 1991The United States Of America As Represented By The Secretary Of The Air ForceAutonomous face recognition machine
US5128862Sep 4, 1990Jul 7, 1992Management Information Support, Inc.Customer operable system for a retail store or fast-food restaurant having plural ordering stations
US5168354Mar 27, 1991Dec 1, 1992Burger King CorporationFast food drive-thru video communication system
US5235509Nov 15, 1989Aug 10, 1993Management Information Support, Inc.Customer self-ordering system using information displayed on a screen
US5353219Jun 10, 1993Oct 4, 1994Management Information Support, Inc.Suggestive selling in a customer self-ordering system
US5636463Jul 10, 1995Jun 10, 1997Lsi Industries, Inc.Adjustable menu board
US5715325Aug 30, 1995Feb 3, 1998Siemens Corporate Research, Inc.Apparatus and method for detecting a face in a video image
US5845263Jun 16, 1995Dec 1, 1998High Technology Solutions, Inc.Interactive visual ordering system
US5937386Dec 9, 1996Aug 10, 1999Frantz; Howard J.Computerized method and system for fulfillment of an itemized food order from a quick-service restaurant menu
US5969968Apr 17, 1998Oct 19, 1999Pentel; Randolph M.Remote ordering system for restaurant drive-up lane
US6026375Dec 5, 1997Feb 15, 2000Nortel Networks CorporationMethod and apparatus for processing orders from customers in a mobile environment
US6184926May 21, 1997Feb 6, 2001Ncr CorporationSystem and method for detecting a human face in uncontrolled environments
US6191773Apr 25, 1996Feb 20, 2001Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd.Interface apparatus
US6283860Aug 14, 2000Sep 4, 2001Philips Electronics North America Corp.Method, system, and program for gesture based option selection
US6301370Dec 4, 1998Oct 9, 2001Eyematic Interfaces, Inc.Face recognition from video images
US6404900Jan 14, 1999Jun 11, 2002Sharp Laboratories Of America, Inc.Method for robust human face tracking in presence of multiple persons
US6434255Oct 23, 1998Aug 13, 2002Takenaka CorporationHand pointing apparatus
US6498628Nov 17, 1998Dec 24, 2002Sony CorporationMotion sensing interface
US6788809Jun 30, 2000Sep 7, 2004Intel CorporationSystem and method for gesture recognition in three dimensions using stereo imaging and color vision
US20010002467Nov 29, 2000May 31, 2001Shinichi OgoDrive-through system
Non-Patent Citations
Reference
1Harville, Gordon & Woodfill, Proc. Of IEEE Workshop on Detection & Recognition, Jul. 2001.
2Krahnstoever, Kettebekov, Yeasin, & Sharma, Dept. of Comp. Science & Eng. Tech Report, 2002, month is not available.
3Osuna, Freund & Girosi, Proc. IEEE Conf. Comp. Vision & Pattern Recognition pp. 130-137 1997, month is not available.
4R. Jain and R. Kasturi, Machine Vision, McGraw-Hill, 1995.
5Ridder, Munkelt & Kirchner, ICRAM 95 UNESCO Chair on Mechatronics, 193-199, 1995, month is not available.
6Rowley, Baluja, & Kanade, IEEE Trans. Pattern Analysis & Machine Intelligence, vol. 20, No. 1, 1998.
7Sharma, Pavlovic'& Huang, Proc. Of IEEE 86(5):853-869 May 1998.
8Stauffer & Grimson, Comp. Vision & Pattern Recognition, vol. 2, pp. 246-253, Jun. 1999.
9U.S. Appl. No. 60/369,279 filed Apr. 2, 2002, Sharma.
10U.S. Appl. No. 60/399,246 filed Jul. 29, 2002, Sharma.
11U.S. Appl. No. 60/402,817 filed Aug. 12, 2002, Sharma.
12Yang, Kriegman & Ahuja, IEEE Trans. Pattern Analysuis & Machine Intelligence, vol. 24, No. 1, Jan. 2002.
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8175917 *Oct 29, 2008May 8, 2012Ncr CorporationMethod and apparatus for customer specific based food preparation prediction
US8560972 *Aug 10, 2004Oct 15, 2013Microsoft CorporationSurface UI for gesture-based interaction
US20090265216 *Oct 29, 2008Oct 22, 2009Flynn Tracy LMethod and apparatus for customer specific based food preparation prediction
US20110178947 *Jan 19, 2010Jul 21, 2011Mcnutt Reginald LeslieGreeter methods and systems
US20130166097 *Nov 16, 2012Jun 27, 2013Flextronics Ap, LlcUniversal bus in the car
Classifications
U.S. Classification701/1, 715/863, 701/2, 705/26.8, 701/408
International ClassificationG06F17/00, G06K9/00
Cooperative ClassificationG06F3/0304, G06F3/011
European ClassificationG06F3/01B, G06F3/03H
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Mar 18, 2013FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 8