BMW iDrive 8 infotainment gets AI, natural language recognition and a 'face'

It's taking a page from Google

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We were pleased with the way BMW updated their iDrive 7.0 last year, calling it one of the best interfaces in the biz and rating it above the Mercedes MBUX and Audi MMI. Well, BMW has just updated it again, and iDrive 8.0 is said to be designed with voice recognition, natural language processing, and personalization in mind.

A new graphical interface presents information in highly customizable ways, but default views tailor it to how much data you want — probably a good thing with today's information-overloaded devices. For example, vehicle information can be displayed in three layouts, called Focus, Drive and Gallery, each with an increasing amount of stats being thrown at your eyeballs. And if it all gets to be too much, a "calm" feature minimizes it all to display just the vehicle speed. Likewise, the nav system has Reduced, Adaptive and Expanded modes depending on how crowded you want the map to get.

The BMW Personal Assistant now understands natural dialogue, so you don't have to feel like you're talking to a robot. In fact, BMW says it's even giving the assistant a face — an abstract group of floating circles — in order to provide "a clearly visible point of focus and identifiable states of activity." This face can even show you gestures and non-verbal cues to indicate it's doing something. BMW says it expresses "different emotions and states of mind non-verbally and in a human-like manner." It'll even answer questions about vehicle functions and tell you where the closest taco joint is.

The BMW ID system, which remembers your seating positions, safety monitor levels and infotainment settings, will now be transferable via BMW's network to other iDrive 8.0 or 7.0. It also is said to be more intelligent, learning your behavior and adapting to your habits the more you use the car.

All of this is to say it will use more AI, collected from you, but also other cars in the BMW Group vehicle fleet. BMW's cloud will help the system improve functions like maps, but will also figure out natural language sentences. Since even climate controls will be governed by AI, you can say, "My feet are cold." and BMW's assistant will increase heat to footwell vents.

Over-the-air updates will also be available on iDrive 8.0, in addition to what BMW says is more comprehensive integration of third-party apps. And, like Audi, the new system will activate a choreographed little light show as you approach and leave the car. 5G connectivity will be available depending on the region.

The latest iDrive will be introduced in the upcoming BMW iX and i4 EVs. They will feature a curved-glass display with combines the 12.3-inch information display and 14.9-inch control display into one. We'll have to see if it still leads the pack when we conduct another one of our driveway tests.

For a comprehensive look a iDrive 8.0's features, see BMW's press release.

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