BMW AirTouch Replaces Interior Dials And Switches With Hand Gestures

When BMW launched its next generation 7-Series earlier this year, it packed in an incredible amount of technology including Gesture Control. Gesture control uses a 3D sensor to track your finger movements, allowing you to adjust infotainment functions and even accept or reject incoming calls.

Not one to rest on its laurels, BMW is bringing a more advanced version of this “touchless” interface to CES 2016 in Las Vegas next month. The new tech, called AirTouch, allows you to control navigation, infotainment, and communications features using your whole hand. According to BMW, AirTouch “allows the display in a vehicle to be operated like a touchscreen without actually having to make contact with the surface.

“AirTouch recognizes which selection and control steps are required next and displays them in advance. This allows the driver to focus all their concentration on the road ahead or offers additional convenient control options when the vehicle is traveling in highly automated mode.”

BMW Gesture
Gesture Control in the BMW 7-Series

As a result, you won’t have to stretch your arm out to touch a screen sitting on top of your dash or even fiddle with tiny buttons and dials while driving. Instead, you can hold your hand up and confuse other passing motorists as you furiously wave your hand to switch to the next track during your Spotify streaming session.

AirTouch uses sensors that are embedded above the dash and throughout the interior to monitor hand movements of both the driver and passenger. And while Gesture Control accepted simple commands, AirTouch permits three-dimensional controls, allowing for more complex commands to be carried out on the panoramic displayed mounted in the dash.

While you can confirm actions using gestures, you can also use a more “old school” confirmation method with a dedicated AirTouch button that is mounted on the steering wheel. Likewise, the passenger has his or her own AirTouch button mounted on the door card.

i8 spyder concept
Original BMW i8 Spyder Concept

The 7-Series was just the start with BMW’s new gesture-based control scheme, but we’ll keep our eyes on future production vehicles that will incorporate AirTouch. One likely candidate is the i8 Spyder, which is also expected to make an appearance as an updated concept at CES.