BMW set to present futuristic AirTouch gesture control at 2016 CES

Article by Christian Andrei, on January 5, 2016

At the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, visitors will surely be excited by the BMW’s concept car as it hints at how car technology may develop in the future. With an emphasis on connecting the driver, the vehicle and mobile devices, BMW has developed a range of vehicles using the AirTouch facility.

This exciting new feature enables the driver to control communications, navigation and entertainment with simple hand gestures similar to Xbox and Wii hand commands. The display can be operated like a touch screen but without the need for the driver to actually make contact with the screen. Sensors positioned between the central console and the interior mirror read hand gestures to select menu features or activate icons.

Gesture control is not a new concept for BMW. Last year, they revealed finger gesture control at the CES. Using ‘Tommy Thumb’ style gestures, the driver can operate volume control or receive telephone calls, making operating the car ‘child’s play’.

This very technology has already been made available to BMW 7 Series drivers. The AirTouch advances this technology to the next level by facilitating three dimensional control using hand gestures. With the wave of a hand, the surface of the large panorama display is automatically activated.

Ensuring the driver always remains in control, BMW has added the option of a button that the driver can use to confirm the action of passengers. This feature is also available for passengers allowing the driver to concentrate on the road.

The AirTouch menu control has been designed to keep hand gestures to a minimum so that the driver can make quick selections. For example, when the driver wants to place a call, the system automatically brings up contacts and call lists, as it might do on your mobile for ease of access.

AirTouch is also intelligent, it thinks ahead to the next steps that you might require and displays these options in advance. This reduces the amount of time the driver’s hand needs to be off the wheel. When the vehicle is in automatic driving mode, there are a range of other convenient control gestures available to accommodate the driving condition.

Press Release

BMW Group at the CES 2016 in Las Vegas

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES, 6 to 9 January 2016) in Las Vegas, the BMW Group is presenting a Vision Car to demonstrate what the interior and the user interface of the future might look like. The rapid advance of networking between driver, vehicle and environment is becoming increasingly intensive and is facilitating new services. One example of new technologies in seamlessly networked vehicles is provided by AirTouch. This feature empowers intuitive control of entertainment, navigation and communication functions using simple gestures made with a flat hand. AirTouch allows the display in a vehicle to be operated like a touchscreen without actually having to make contact with the surface. Sensors record the hand movements in the area between the central console and the interior mirror. This enables drivers or passengers to change the focus on the surface of the large panorama display. Simple confirmation selects the relevant menu item or activates an icon.

Sensors on the instrument dashboard permit 3D control.
One year ago, BMW already presented the new gesture control at the CES. This enables simple movements of a finger to carry out actions such as adjusting the loudness or accepting phone calls. Meanwhile, this technology is available as BMW Gesture Control in the new BMW 7 Series. AirTouch is now taking another big leap forward. Sensors are installed in the area of the instrument dashboard which respond to hand movements here and therefore permit three-dimensional control. A movement of the hand or a gesture activates the surfaces on the large panorama display.

AirTouch has another option to confirm an action. A concealed AirTouch button is located on the rim of the steering wheel. It is on the left and easy to reach with the thumb, and it lights up when a menu or icon can be activated. One tap is sufficient to activate the desired program or change a setting. The passenger also has a button like this positioned on the side sill in the door area. Passengers are therefore able to use one hand to navigate through the menu and the other hand to confirm inputs very quickly.

The intelligent AirTouch menu control reduces the number of steps needed to make a selection. For example, when activating the phone pad, the system automatically brings up contacts or call lists to the top select level so that a call can be made with just one further action. AirTouch recognises which selection and control steps are required next and displays them in advance. This allows the driver to focus all their concentration on the road ahead or offers additional convenient control options when the vehicle is travelling in highly automated mode.

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