BMW to showcase pioneering human-machine interface idea at CES 2017

As an industry first, BMW plans to show at the upcoming CES a “virtual touchscreen” as an innovative element of the human-machine interface. The HoloActive Touch has a free-floating display that seems to waft between the center stack and the driver. Operated through finger gestures, the operating element responds to each entry with a haptic feedback.

The HoloActive Touch brings together the advantages of a head-up Display, 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 services provided by BMW Connected, the carmaker’s connectivity services.

Similarly to the head-up Display, the image of a full-color display is generated by the use of reflections – but now in free-floating form within the interior rather than through projection onto the windscreen. It displays configurable control pads and is visible to the driver next to the steering wheel at the height of the center stack. A camera detects the driver’s hand movements within this area and registers the position of their fingertips. As soon as a fingertip makes contact with one of these virtual control surfaces, a pulse is emitted and the relevant function is activated.

Though BMW did not elaborate as to the technology provider for the HoloActive Touch, we think it is well possible that it has been developed by Ultrahaptics, a Bristol, UK, based startup company which has demonstrated such an HMI element earlier at various opportunities.