Touchscreens are becoming common and touch pads – like those in the Audi A7, A8 and next A3 – are gaining traction, but the next input revolution might not be gesture controls, it's likely to be "smart fabrics" and BMW is already toying with the technology.
Researchers at the Polytechnic School of Montreal, Canada have developed a new flexible, polymer-based fiber that can be woven into existing fabrics. Essentially, it's a capacitive pad that can register touches and swipes when alternating current is plumbed through the fibers. Think about running a finger along your seat fabric to adjust the amount of lumbar support or swipe across the dashboard ahead of the passenger to open the glovebox. Even better, this new material can be cleaned like more traditional fabrics, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in previous iterations.
BMW did something similar with its Vision ConnectedDrive concept from last year's Geneva Motor Show, utilizing capacitive panels embedded in the seats and dash. And according to a BMW spokesperson speaking with New Scientist, the automaker is looking into the technology further, but unfortunately, it isn't providing a timeline on when it could come to market.