BMW planning touch sensitive fabric in future models?

BMW Vision Connected Drive Concept 10.02.2011
BMW Vision Connected Drive Concept 10.02.2011

Researchers at the Polytechnic School in Montreal, Canada are exploring applications for a touch-sensitive fabric that reacts to finger swipes or touches to control any device.

"In essence we are trying to reproduce the smartphone experience in textile form," says researcher Maksim Skorobogatiy. "We are looking for applications where we can weave in sleek, non-invasive control, avoiding blocks of push buttons."

Such a material would allow control of any function in a vehicle from the climate control to stereo volume by simply swiping or touch the side bolster of your seat for example. The applications beyond automotive are endless.

Researches have developed a polymer-based fiber that is woven into a special fabric that maintains an electrical charge. When touched, that electrical charge fluctuates which is then interpreted by software to determine the desired output or function.

Skorobogatiy says, "Finger touches or swipes modified the capacitance of the fabric (a measure of its ability to store charge) when an alternating current was passed through the fibres. That allowed the team to write software that could pinpoint exactly where the pad had been touched. This means that finger movements such as swipes and touches can be logged and used to control the air-conditioning, say, or the volume on the radio."

BMW first presented this idea of touch sensitive surfaces in the Vision ConnectedDrive Concept displayed at the Geneva Motor Show in 2011. The concept featured fiber optic light embedded surfaces receptive to touch for controlling HVAC and infotainment functions. A BMW spokesperson ackowledged they are looking into the technology for vehicle applications but provided no details.

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Comments (9)

germncarfan germncarfan
My buttons are becoming unstickered on my console controls in my Audi. Cheap finish, nothing but problems with the car.
Jan 31st, 2012 2:48pm
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Faithback Faithback
Physically, we are 3D beings and operate in 3D space. Ergonomically, 3D interfaces will always be best... Nevertheless, touch interfaces -which are 2D- allow the same space to be used for difference functions. Thus touch interfaces are most likely here to stay since they allow better adaptability. Any user interface design blunders can be corrected via a software update. Imagine a face-lifted car model with a 'new' dashboard, but actually the same as the old, only programmed differently. Furthermore, imagine being allowed the choice of dashboard and door panel skins as in software! Sport mode, efficiency mode or even child friendly infotainment controls behind the front seats!
Jan 27th, 2012 12:28am
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JoeFletcher JoeFletcher
Gotta agree with Han Solo on this one. What's really the point of this technology besides getting a few 'oohs and ahhs'. It's not like the radio dial or air conditioning button are dire problems plaguing the automotive industry. Frankly, I just don't get all the hype around touch technology. I find a phone with a keypad much easier to operate than a stupid touchscreen. And I have skinny fingers, I can only imagine what it's like for those with fat fingers. Not to mention you get your screen (car) dirty and spread germs by touching every surface you come across. I bet one day we'll laugh about how stupid people were for pretending that touch technology was so groundbreaking.
Jan 26th, 2012 12:40am
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Speedoholic Speedoholic
Am I the only one who likes to see lit buttons on his car's central console? not a fan of the whole touch technology.
Jan 25th, 2012 10:10am
3 1
I agree with you and on that note, I also prefer to see leather on my dash and not some sort of polyester/nylon fabric.
Jan 25th, 2012 3:09pm
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AlikMalix AlikMalix
Han Solo, that's how most of the new innovative USEFUL things are made today, by following an IDEA for a certain application, and BOOM you got a result that may increase the output of a solar panel, for example. But don't worry, there are plenty of labs including inside BMW that are working on improving efficiency. For your information, Google started out as a bookmark page for couple of college geeks who wanted to remember a webpage when the actually found one.
Jan 25th, 2012 8:22am
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Han Solo Han Solo
OK, I agree, I got a little carried away with the whole Touch Sensitive Fabric thing...I would always welcome new technology. I take back what I said about this technology. But let's concentrate on what's really important for a second. We need to put more emphasis on looking for a suitable solution or replacement for the current Li-Ion batteries...otherwise we gonna end up destroying what's left of Mother Earth mining for those Rare Earth Minerals...The last thing I wanna see is a lot of Giant Machines burrowing deep into mother earth looking for these stuff...I dont even think we can satisfy China's hunger for these minerals...what happens when the demand skyrockets around the world...You think you and I can stop the Corporate Giants from turning what little Forests and Jungles we have left into endless fields of Mines...Guys, the earth is already dying...You can call me paranoid if you want, but this is serious.
Jan 26th, 2012 3:16am
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Han Solo Han Solo
Is this really necessary???...Why dont they concentrate on something that really matters like researching on some new type of Hydrogen Fuel Cell Batteries with a High Power Density which can potentially replace the existing Li-Ion Batteries which are made of expensive and limited Rare Earth Minerals. Come on BMW, stop wasting your time with this kind of useless "Rich People's Gadgets which they dont really care about anyway" stuff and start working on the car of the future.
Jan 25th, 2012 2:52am
2 6
Rennfahrer Rennfahrer
Wow, that's a hefty dose of wealth envy for this early in the morning. Rest assured that the whole of BMW's resources are not devoted exclusively to this one feature... The advances under the EfficientDynamics banner are as impressive and innvoative, if not more so than those under the ConnectedDrive programs.
Jan 25th, 2012 1:35pm
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