BMW brought a sculpture to CES to show us the future of autonomous interiors

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With autonomous cars seemingly just around the corner, manufacturers are having to rethink how people will use the automobile. After all, what will people do when they don't actually have to pay attention to the road? BMW has a possible answer, albeit presented in a somewhat pretentious form.

What we have here is not a concept car. This i Inside Future is, according to BMW, a sculpture. Admittedly, the lack of actual wheels does make it hard to actually call this a car, and it certainly has more design than many other interior tech demonstrators. But we struggle to imagine it in an art gallery and also question the choice of that carpet in the back that looks like a broccoli garden. For anyone wondering, the i refers to BMW's sub-brand responsible for electrification and mobility.

Hoity-toity nomenclature aside, the sculpture actually has some interesting technology, and it offers insight on the future use of autonomous vehicles. Entertainment is clearly an important aspect, whether it's high-tech or low-tech. Every passenger will have access to an individual "Sound Curtain" that emanates from the head restraints. These will allow everyone to listen to their favorite music without disturbing their neighbors and without the need for headphones. The rear passengers have a large wide-screen display that can be used for video, or for producing ambient light. Of course personal devices such as phones and tablets can be connected, too. So anyone can have the perfect environment for watching movies, playing games, or reading one of the books stowed on the right side of the sculpture.

The front of this immobile vehicle has the most interesting technology, though. The driver has access to BMW's new HoloActive interface, which projects controls that appear to be floating in mid-air. The driver can then select different functions by moving his or her hand to where the function seems to be. Cameras track the position of the fingers, and when something is selected, ultrasonic emitters generate a tactile sensation to indicate that selection was made. It's some wild, futuristic technology that seems like it could be both very cool and very gimmicky. We'll check it and the rest of the sculpture's technology out for ourselves while we're at CES.

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