New BMW iDrive features touchscreen and gesture recognition

BMW's iDrive adds gesture control

BMW’s iDrive adds gesture control

BMW’s iDrive is about to become an even more ‘handy’ way to interface with a car’s infotainment system while driving. There’s something to be said about having a tactile controller to manipulate. Nevertheless, it’s still limiting, plus advances in technology and the habits that accompany them suggest touchscreens are the way forward. BMW has responded by introducing a next level iDrive controller including touch (and touch-less) inputs.

BMW’s latest iDrive still retains its distinctive controller and BMW points out that one control doesn’t compromise the other. Everything done by the touchscreen can be done with the controller, and you can switch in between them for whichever functions you may be performing. Say you’re looking for a song on a playlist and scrolling through it with the iDrive controller. At any point, you can reach out to the touchscreen where an on-screen keyboard will pop up when it detects the proximity of your hand. Even if you decide to go back to the controller, your input won’t be interrupted.

BMW introduces gesture recognition in iDrive

As handy as touchscreens are, you still have to reach out and push something, and the next level of interface manipulation is non-contact gesture recognition. This means that, in a designated space of air in the cabin, a 3D sensor can recognise if a driver or passenger is pointing with one finger or two, or pinching and expanding with the thumb and index finger. It will even recognise if you’ve “tapped” an icon or swiping left or right with a wiggle of your finger.

Rotating your finger can do things like change the volume level and a simple finger gesture can even answer or decline a call. Personally, I’not sure if gesture controlled infotainment will work all that well for the Italian market, where drivers and passengers alike just love to use their hands to make all sort of gestures when driving…

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