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CES: BMW presents HoloActive Touch

Hands off: BMW’s new HoloActive Touch concept works just like a smartphone touchscreen – minus the touching.

Head-up display, gesture control and iDrive combined in BMW HoloActive Touch

BMW logo16 Dec 2016

BMW has, once again, used the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to offer a glimpse into the future of its driver-to-vehicle interface technology with a HoloActive Touch system that combines head-up display technology with its contactless gesture control.

Using a careful arrangement of reflectors and projectors, HoloActive Touch generates images that appear to be hovering above a touchpad, displaying information from the various BMW Connected services and applications to the driver.

While conventional head-up displays can be interacted with using more conventional touchscreen and scroll-wheels, the conceptual system allows the driver to select options using an evolved and more sensitive version of the company’s gesture control.

In the case of the gesture control that debuted in the current 7 Series, users control functions with hand signals made in the area below the rear-view mirror but, for the new system, its sensitivity has been enhanced to recognise a larger number of gestures and using just one finger.

The driver can swipe through options in the virtual display in the same manner as a smartphone screen without actually contacting the display, but by resting the hand next to the display, users are given tactile feedback to confirm selections.

Visitors to the show – which opens its doors on January 5 – will be able to try out the system along with a number of other pioneering technologies as part of BMW’s i Inside Future study, but the car-maker is not revealing the other features just yet.

HoloActive Touch is still a concept at this stage but if the experimental system follows the trend of new ideas previously debuted at the show, it is likely to be offered in production cars in about two years.

At the 2015 show, BMW rolled out the concept of gesture control which is now available in the 7 Series and 5 Series and followed it up with a more versatile AirTouch system at this year’s show which is expected to feature in BMWs within 12 months.

HoloActive Touch projects an image or text that appears to hover next to the steering wheel at the height of the centre console and a camera tracks the position and movement of the driver’s fingers. When the system detects that a floating fingertip has contacted the virtual surface the option is selected along with an accompanying pulse from the surface that the hand is resting on.

BMW is presenting the new system in an minimalist conceptual cockpit that appears many years in the future with all mechanical switches and buttons replaced by screens and touchpads, while the steering wheel is pure 1970s high-end furniture.

If the system is introduced for production cars, it is likely HoloActive Touch will be supplemented by other more conventional technologies. BMW says that the system is an insight into the way “seamlessly connected and autonomously-driving” vehicles will function in the future.

As vehicles become ever more dependent on the latest electronics and data management systems, car-makers are increasingly choosing the CES as the stage to present new technologies.

Alongside BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Fiat Chysler Automobiles, Bentley, McLaren, Kia, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Ford all has something to show off at the 2016 show and 2017 is expected to garner even more appearances.

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