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Sneak peek: VW's next gen infotainment system

Volkswagen gives us a demonstration of a new infotainment system, with many iPhone-like capabilities.

Volkswagen is trying out new ideas with this infotainment system. CNET

Far from corporate headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany, the engineers at Volkswagen's Electronic Research Laboratory (ERL) take advantage of their proximity to high-tech companies such as Apple, Intel, and Google to develop new infotainment systems and interfaces for VW cars. We got a look at ERL's latest work, a system developed with Intel called the Global Open Research Infotainment Architecture, or GLORIA.

ERL Senior Engineer Eric Jensen walked us through the latest interface built on GLORIA. The test system we saw relied on a touch screen for all input, although a production system might use some hard buttons on the edges of the screen. But unlike standard touchscreen applications, this system allows for multitouch, making gesture control, similar to that used on the iPhone, possible. Jensen demonstrated tracing a lower-case 'h' with his fingertip on the display, which caused the system to bring up the home screen. Similarly, tracing an 'n' brought up the navigation screen.

In this development stage, the system had applications for navigation and music, but Jensen explained that it could serve as a platform for third-party developers to build useful widgets that could be installed by the end user. This model would be similar to how iPhone owners can load apps from iTunes.

Jensen pointed out that most automotive interface designers believe voice command will be the ultimate control paradigm, but until natural language processing advances, touch screens make the most sense. The system we saw was under heavy development, and would probably find its way into a production car in three years, at the earliest.