At the last Consumer Electronics Show BMW revealed a gesture control system that employed a 3D sensor in the roof of a car to read hand movements made in front of the dashboard. That appearance in Las Vegas was a tease for the system we'd get in the brand new 7 Series. At next month's CES BMW will showcase a "Vision Car" with a concept interior of the future that incorporates the evolution of the current gesture system. It is called Airtouch.

Permitting a wider variety of iDrive control, 3D sensors on the instrument panel read movements made with a flat hand so that driver or passenger can work their way through entertainment, navigation, and communication menus. Users can confirm actions with hand gestures, or with a button on the steering wheel or another in the passenger's door.

We'll find out next month what the rest of the Vision Car includes. If this year's template is a guide, we'll also keep an eye on the coming 7 Series flagships to see if they include production versions of Airtouch. There's a press release below for more information.

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BMW Group at the CES 2016 in Las Vegas. BMW presents the principle of the contactless touchscreen with AirTouch.

28.12.2015, Munich/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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