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BMW's AirTouch concept turns your entire car into a touchscreen controller

BMW's AirTouch concept turns your entire car into a touchscreen controller

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Last CES, BMW teased the future of its human-machine interface with a gesture control demo — a capability that debuted later in 2015 on the new 7 Series. Once again, BMW will be showing a new form of system control at CES 2016 next week: AirTouch, they're calling it, which sounds like a much more advanced version of last year's gesture control system.

The system that's currently in the 7 Series is limited to just a small handful of basic controls — volume, for instance — but AirTouch "allows the display in a vehicle to be operated like a touchscreen without actually having to make contact with the surface" using an array of sensors in the interior. Basically, it sounds like you can use your outstretched hand like a mouse on the car's oversized display. Once you're focused on the on-screen item you want to select, the driver can use a button on the steering wheel to make the selection, and the passenger can do the same with a button on the door.

It could be shown on the i8 Spyder

It sounds a little complex, but BMW says it has designed AirTouch's software to automatically move through required menus and steps without additional clicking, which reduces the total number of steps. Automakers are experimenting with many different control concepts lately, looking to reduce driver distraction — even as the number of functions, apps, and controls offered by modern cars continues to grow with each new model year.

As with last year's gesture control demo, AirTouch is almost certainly an early look at a system that will debut on a production BMW within a couple model years; that could happen first on the i8 Spyder, which is rumored to be at CES, possibly as the AirTouch demo vehicle.

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