The Consumer Electronics Show hosted every January in Las Vegas has seen a lot more action from car makers these days. That’s because car makers, like BMW, have to change the way they do business, in order to remain relevant. The huge amount of tech people expect to find in their cars has prompted traditional automotive companies to adapt.

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BMW has actually declared itself a technology company not long ago, leaving behind the ‘car maker’ stamp. At this year’s CES, the Germans came prepared with a few very interesting technology showcases. One of them is the BMW i Interaction EASE system. The concept car on which this new system has been introduced has been deliberately given an abstract exterior design, as the focus here should be on what happens inside, not the outside.

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The BMW i Interaction EASE system was designed in collaboration with Designworks and its goal is to offer a glimpse into what the future might look like when cars drive themselves to a destination. Basically, the goal here was to offer new ways to interact with your car and its technology. Alongside verbal engagement with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant and a new type of gesture control, a new gaze detection system follows your eyes and reacts.

The AI available on board uses gaze sensing for browsing the space around the user and vehicle, while pointing can be used to register a selection for more information. This form of interaction draws on the way people talk to one another; i.e. each person’s gaze identifies who or what is the subject of the conversation or makes the meaning of what is being said clear.

A spoken or gesture command can then be given to initiate interaction with the target object. In this way, it is possible to obtain information on the context within the passengers’ frame of view as their gaze falls on e.g. a restaurant or cinema.

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The Panorama Head-Up Display spanning the entire width of the front-end windscreen has a key role to play in this regard. By imposing a second, digital layer of information over the real-world view, it acts as an immersive augmented-reality user interface.

It can show additional information on the windscreen that is tailored to the situation at hand and the vehicle’s surroundings. Thanks to 5G connectivity the vehicle knows exactly where it is and can offer the user information on the surrounding buildings, businesses and other objects as and when required.

The BMW i Interaction EASE has three different operating modes. In Explore mode the focus is aimed at the area around the vehicle. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant uses AR technology to superimpose information of interest to the passengers on the display so it appears both in their line-of-sight and in the correct position for their view of the real world.

Additional information or options for interaction with both the vehicle’s immediate and more distant surroundings can be accessed as the user desires. Focusing their gaze on the superimposed information brings up further details on the display, and a confirmatory gesture takes the user to the next interaction level.

Entertain mode brings the in-car experience to the forefront. The surfaces at the sides are darkened to obscure the outside world and the Panorama Head-Up Display can be used for watching movies, for example. The theater-like ambient lighting extends light and color throughout the interior adapt to the content shown on the display.

When Ease mode is activated, the vehicle interior offers a more relaxed experience. Touching the intelligent material moves the seat into the “zero-gravity” position. The BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant darkens the Panorama Head-Up Display and makes the surfaces at the sides opaque.

The first features of the BMW i Interaction EASE will become reality in the market in the BMW iNEXT.