New technology will be unveiled at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show

If by some way we end up with car featuring Tony Stark-levels of technology, we could point back to the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show as the tipping point that allowed us to push beyond imagination and into actual reality. It’s still a big leap from that day, but BMW has arrived at the stage wherein the possibilities are now upon us. The German automaker is scheduled to introduce the HoloActive Touch system, a concept interior that removes all sorts of traditional interior features and replaces them with a floating protection that interacts with a touchscreen pad. If you can’t picture it, think Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The basic gist of the HoloActive Touch system is actually pretty straight-forward. It bears some similarities to the current head-up display tech that makes use of reflections to project an image and make it appear as if it’s floating in mid-air. The projection is synced into a physical touchscreen found on the center console of the car, which itself can be configured by the driver to perform a myriad of different functions, as if your fingers are controlling the images that you see in the projection. If this sounds familiar, it’s because the HoloActive Touch tech also has some of BMW’s own Gesture Control features attached to it, which when combined together, creates a pretty immersive visual interaction with the car itself.

The whole tech is admittedly next-level science fiction variety. We’ve seen different variations of it from Hollywood, but nowhere have we seen it adapted into the real world in the magnitude of what BMW claims it has right now. It’s pretty exciting to see what the future possibilities of the HoloActive Touch system are. Just don’t expect to see it in production form in the near future. Between head-up displays and gesture controls, it does feel like car interior technology is moving at a rapid pace, or at least faster than the time it takes for us to keep up with them.

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It’s an important step to a technology that could reinvent the industry

On paper, it’s the kind of future we’ve all been waiting to see. Gesture controls and hologram interfaces are amazing to imagine, but like most cool things on the surface, they become subject to a lot of nitpicking when become at least close to reality. I don’t expect BMW’s HoloActive Touch system to be any different, largely because factors like safety and convenience are now require to be taken into consideration.

The biggest concern at this point is how distracting this technology can be, especially if phrases like “personal digital mobility” and “extremely intuitive interaction” are now being thrown out. A floating screen, in particular, is something that’s going to take a lot of time to get used to for a lot of people and while it could serve a far bigger purpose than what we’re capable of distinguishing today, I think there’s still going to be a lot to learn about the system before any kind of real-world application happens.

Fortunately, BMW itself doesn’t seem to be in any rush to bring the tech into production. The system that we’re going to see at CES is still a concept and like most concepts, that’s going to be subject to a lot of discussion moving forward.

So whether you appreciate the technology or not, it is nice to see a company like BMW be proactive in developing these technologies. At some point in the future, a version of this tech will be used in some form or fashion. It’s better then that BMW is already setting itself up to know what that future technology could look like. Maybe it takes the form of something that’s close to the company’s HoloActive Touch system. Maybe it doesn’t.

The important thing is that BMW’s not going to be left scratching its head and scrambling to keep up.

Press Release

The BMW Group will provide another glimpse into the interior of the future at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 in Las Vegas with a selection of trailblazing concepts and revolutionary technology. The BMW HoloActive Touch system, for example, will be making its debut at the show. This innovative interface between the driver and vehicle acts like a virtual touchscreen; its free-floating display is operated using finger gestures and confirms the commands with what the driver perceives as tactile feedback. BMW HoloActive Touch is part of the BMW i Inside Future study, which gives visitors to the CES, taking place on 5 – 8 January 2017, an impression of the mobility experience set to be offered by seamlessly connected and autonomously-driving cars in the future.

BMW Steps Into New Frontier With HoloActive Touch System Interior
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BMW HoloActive Touch brings together the advantages of the BMW Head-Up Display, BMW gesture control and direct touchscreen operation, and adds extra features to create a unique form of user interface. For the first time, the functions can be controlled without any physical contact with materials, but the technology still enables the visible and tangible driver-vehicle interaction familiar from conventional touchscreens. BMW HoloActive Touch also allows the user to access the wide variety of services provided by BMW Connected. The seamless integration of the personal digital mobility companion is highlighted even more vividly by the extremely intuitive interaction.

BMW has developed a track record for presenting pioneering advances in the field of display and operating concepts at previous editions of the CES. The BMW gesture control technology unveiled at the show in 2015 is now available in both the new BMW 7 Series and new BMW 5 Series models. And the AirTouch system showcased at CES 2016 took things a step further; here, the user employs simple gestures made with an open hand to activate control pads on a large panoramic display in the dashboard without having to touch the control interface.

BMW HoloActive Touch takes operating these functions and interacting with the vehicle to another level. Similarly to the Head-Up Display, the image of a full-colour display is generated by clever use of reflections – but now in free-floating form within the interior rather than through projection onto the windscreen. It displays flexibly configurable control pads and is visible to the driver next to the steering wheel at the height of the centre console. A camera detects the driver’s hand movements within this ergonomically user-friendly area, and registers the position of their fingertips, in particular. As soon as a fingertip makes contact with one of these virtual control surfaces, a pulse is emitted and the relevant function is activated.

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