BMW AirTouch technology brings gesture control into 3D

BMW will show off its new AirTouch technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year.

Emme Hall
Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
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Hate fingerprints on your car's infotainment screen? BMW has given us a teaser of the solution, to be on display at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on January 6-9. Their new AirTouch technology promises control of communication and entertainment features with a mere wave of a flat hand.

Yup. It's not a touchscreen. It's a wavescreen.


BMW is adding technology that will allow you to flip controls with a wave.


The 2016 BMW 7 already features gesture control, where a wave of the driver's finger can change the volume of the stereo or accept a phone call. AirTouch ramps up that technology by allowing for three-dimensional control. Now drivers and passengers can use their whole hand or gesture to change the large panorama display. Gestures can be made between the center console and rear view mirror.

AirTouch uses physical buttons to confirm an action. One is hidden on the rim of the steering wheel, within easy reach of the driver's thumb. A single tap confirms the desired program. The passenger can also get in on the game, using a button located on the side sill of the door. Passengers will be able to use one hand to navigate the system, the other to confirm quickly.

Watch this: BMW shows hand-wave controlled parking, dashboard

AirTouch also promises to reduce the number of steps to make a selection. AirTouch pre-loads the required steps for an action and displays them in advance. For example, contacts or call lists are pushed to the top select level when the phone is activated for quick action.

Bluetooth gadget showcase from CES 2016 (pictures)

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Volkswagen showed off similar technology in the Golf R at last year's Consumer Electronics Show, and Hyundai debuted a bare bones version in 2013. There's no telling when BMW's three-dimensional gesture control technology will make it into production vehicles, but as cars become more and more automated, expect to see new and innovative technologies connecting driver to the vehicle and its environment.