Apple launched the iPod in 2001. Its click wheel became the new benchmark for user interfaces. It can be used intuitively and enables various controls via one control unit. A variant of this can now be found in almost every center console in cars. This interface could already have had its day just a decade later, as a wide range of developers have translated the principle behind this control unit into a new dimension of gesture control – without an actual click wheel. In the Shape Shifting Console from Harman, a controller is located under an apparently leather-covered armrest that reads hand movements and so guides the user through the menu. The start-up Ultrahaptics is developing similar technology.
BMW is also looking for new ways to make menu control easier using so-called 3D gestures. AirTouch technology was introduced in 2014, allowing users to control a menu on the display using gesture control without touching it. This concept was extended in 2017 with haptic holograms.
HoloActive Touch involves a display that floats around freely in space. It is operated via virtual touch through a gentle tap of the fingertips. This currently happens at a range of 20 to 30 millimetres above a glass panel. Not only will this be possible from a greater distance in future; users will also get a haptic impulse when navigating through menus virtually using their fingers.
The technologies behind such interfaces frequently originate not in the vehicle industry but in the wonderful world of computer games. Start-ups like Leap Motion, Gestigon, Heptasense, and eyeSight are experimenting in their own unique ways with 3D gesture technology.