This article was published on January 6, 2017

Sony wants you to stop touching (or talking to) your car’s infotainment system

Sony wants you to stop touching (or talking to) your car’s infotainment system
Bryan Clark
Story by

Bryan Clark

Former Managing Editor, TNW

Bryan is a freelance journalist. Bryan is a freelance journalist.

SoftKinetic, a Belgian company acquired by Sony last year, allowed me to demo some of the impressive sensor technology it’s adding to current-model BMW 5 and 7 series cars.

What is it?

Sony’s depth-tracking sensor allows you to interact with your car in a completely intuitive way, without actually needing to touch anything on your dash or repeat yourself when toying with voice commands. Instead, its recent acquisition, SoftKinetic, has developed an amazing sensor that uses gesture control to plot routes, look for directions, and control in-dash items like climate and entertainment options.

Rather than relying on sensors — an expensive addition that just increases the likelihood of failure — Sony decided to reduce the need for them. It relies on a single sensor mounted in the same area as the overhead light that tracks depth and relative position of your hand as it translates specific movements as gesture-based controls.

Want to speed up while in auto-pilot? Point forward. Slowing down? A quick hand movement backward will do the trick. Adjusting the radio is as easy as turning an invisible dial.

Why does it matter?

The car market might be where we see the most innovation in years to come. Aside from autonomy, newfangled in-car infotainment systems aim to provide all the luxury of home, and then some. Sony’s sensing technology figures to be a large part of that — or at least BMW seems to think so.

When is it coming?

It’s here. You can find Sony’s depth-sensing technology on all 2017 BMW 5 series and above vehicles. You’ll probably see it trickle down to less expensive models shortly after.

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