Mercedes-Benz extending app selection for COMAND, ready to fight Audi with gesture controls

Mercedes-Benz is in the process of revamping its COMAND infotainment system for the next decade, and as you'd expect, apps, search and advanced navigation is on the way. But it's not just about what's on the screen; it's about how you interact with the system.

In addition to researching 3D displays, Mercedes engineers are looking into expanding voice commands with natural language dictation for emails, text messaging and mobile internet browsing. Drivers would simply ask "What's the weather like in New York City?" and get current conditions, along with a multi-day forecast and be able to do point-of-interest searches through Google. A new user interface – originally shown on the Concept A-Class at this year's Shanghai Motor Show – will incorporate more fluid transitions and user-configurable displays for everything from navigation functionality to climate and media control. And lest Audi have all the fun, Mercedes is looking into handwriting recognition and gesture controls for interior lighting.

On the app front, Mercedes will be integrating Twitter and Facebook into COMAND this fall, along with Stitcher radio and Pandora. Even better, the system will begin incorporating Google's StreetView technology and Panoramio so drivers can see exactly what their destination looks like before they arrive. The new COMAND functionality is due to arrive on European SLK, C-Class, E-Class, CLS, M-Class and the new B-Class by the end of the year and should make it to the States in early 2012. Hit the jump for the full details.

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The future shape of multimedia from Mercedes-Benz: Holistic experience and natural interaction

Mercedes-Benz presented the first fully integrated telematics system in the automotive industry in 1993, when the Communication and Navigation System (CNS) was premiered in the S-Class. A further ground-breaking innovation followed in 1996 in the guise of the LINGUATRONIC voice control system, which defines the standard to this day. The first 16:9 colour screen was unveiled by Mercedes-Benz in 2002. Internet access on-board Mercedes-Benz vehicles was introduced this year.

At the TecTalk "@ your comand", the company showed how the engineers at Mercedes-Benz envision the near and more distant multimedia future with the aim of maintaining this pioneering role in telematics and infotainment. "Our vision can be summed up by the four key concepts of a 'Holistic experience', 'Natural interaction', 'Sensory perfection' and 'User-friendly remote control'", explains Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bharat Balasubramanian, Vice President Product Innovations & Process Technologies in Group Research & Advanced Engineering at Daimler AG.

The company will be expanding the range of integrated apps for the COMAND Online multimedia system apace, for example, and offering numerous applications for all facets of the digital lifestyle. New apps for the Facebook™ online network, for Google™ Streetview and Google™ Panoramio will be available from the autumn of 2011. Over a dozen additional apps are planned in the medium term. These are currently under development, in some instances in collaboration with innovative start-ups such as the US talk radio operator Stitcher, the Twitter short message service and the popular music providers Pandora in the USA or Aupeo in Germany, for example. The new apps will be usable by all customers who drive a Mercedes-Benz with COMAND Online.

As already indicated in the "Concept A-CLASS" study (Shanghai, 2011), the graphic design of screen content will also acquire increasing importance in future. Dynamically growing glass elements form three-dimensionally arranged navigation levels. The user is guided intuitively around the spatial depth of this menu structure by flowing movements and fluidly animated transitions. In the long term, displays will allow even greater scope for personalisation and apps and control elements will no longer be restricted to specific displays. User-configurable displays are conceivable, for example, allowing drivers to determine for themselves which display elements are to be shown where.

"We are also pursuing research on 3D displays. Three-dimensional on-screen presentations enable information to be absorbed more intuitively," Balasubramanian points out. "This simpler and faster recognition of warnings provides for a further improvement in road traffic safety."

Operation will also be even more intuitive in future, with voice control covering most functions, supported by gestures and touch. In the medium term, it will be possible to dictate text messages and e-mails or to call up messages in this way. This will involve speaking a headline or, in the case of so-called "free" voice browsing, a specific question ("What's the weather like in southern Germany?"). "To us as safety pioneers, it is important that the driver is not distracted in any way. On the contrary, the aim is to enhance driver-fitness safety through improved user-friendliness," explains Balasubramanian.

Further examples of "natural interaction" include menu control via gestures or handwriting recognition (whereby the user traces a finger over the display on the head unit). In future, it may be possible to switch reading and interior lights on and off by means of swiping movements along the overhead control unit, and gesture-controlled invisible cameras could replace switches in vehicles.

Tomorrow's motorists will be able to decide at the breakfast table or in the office which content or apps they wish to have on board, by carrying out corresponding pre-configurations via smartphone or PC. The first such application to have been realised is the option offered by COMAND Online of downloading a route which has been configured on a PC beforehand using Google Maps and transmitted to the car.

Mobile use of Facebook, Google Streetview and Google Panoramio

New Mercedes-Benz apps as of autumn of 2011

Only a few months after the launch of the new multimedia generation, Mercedes-Benz is extending the range of integrated apps: new apps for the Facebook™ online network, for Google™ Streetview and Google™ Panoramio will be available for COMAND Online from this autumn. Streetview enables locations all over the world to be seen in 360-degree perspective views and at street level. Panoramio allows access to millions of photographs which have been taken and uploaded by other users at locations all around the globe. Streetview and Panoramio thus provide comprehensive means of studying routes and checking out sights and destinations before embarking on a journey.

The COMAND Online multimedia system, available in the SLK, C-Class, E-Class, CLS and, from the autumn, in the new M-Class and the new B-Class, now offers internet access for the first time. Customers can either surf the web as they wish while the car is stationary or call up a Mercedes-Benz app whose particularly fast page loading and simple operation make it suitable for use while driving.

All customers will be able to use the new apps. Additional apps which have already been introduced are Google™ Local Search and Weather and the facility for downloading a route which has previously been configured on a PC using Google Maps and transmitted to the car. Mercedes-Benz is successively extending the range of apps. An overview specifying the telephones on which the COMAND Online apps can be used is available at the website

A host of user-friendly functions: the COMAND Online multimedia system
The high-resolution colour display has a diagonal of 17.8 cm. Photos can be shown on the large screen and turned over manually, as in a slide show. Where the audio equipment is concerned, too, new types of representation bring a fresh look and more convenient operation. The new Cover Flow function, for instance, sorts the title images of the music albums stored in a carousel-like form, so that the Mercedes driver can easily leaf through their music collection – even if it is rather on the large side: the memory for compressed audio files (mp3, wma and aac formats) is now 10 GB in size. As an option, COMAND Online is available with a 6-disc DVD changer.

Greatest convenience is afforded by the Music Search function, which enables drivers and passengers to search the hard disc, SD memory cards, USB sticks, CDs and DVDs for specific music tracks and artists. The search can be according to various criteria, for instance album, music category or composer. If a name needs to be entered, the software will also tolerate spelling mistakes. The driver is therefore able to devote their full attention to the traffic. As a further advantage, the occupants are able to search all the connected media and devices simultaneously.

The fast hard-disc navigation system of COMAND Online also has added functions. New features include a 3D display with three-dimensional city views. Also new: routes covered can be recorded and repeated later, specific personal destinations can be imported via an SD card and four alternative routes can be displayed on the navigation map, one of them a particularly economical variation. Mercedes-Benz customers in Europe receive the current cards for their COMAND Online multimedia system free of charge for three years. Authorised Mercedes-Benz dealers upload the updates for navigation data in 39 European countries into the navigation system when the customer visits their premises.

In Europe, COMAND Online also comprises Speed Limit Assist, which receives its information for traffic sign recognition via a camera and navigation database. COMAND Online also includes the LINGUATRONIC voice-operated control system for audio, telephone and navigation. The new "One Shot" input function for the navigation system is particularly convenient, whereby the place and road can be spoken directly after one another. This function is currently available in seven languages and significantly enhances ease of operation.

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