BMW wants to make interacting with a car as natural as talking to a friend

BMW iNext concept

BMW predicts poking a screen to get directions will soon become as outdated as a flip phone. The German automaker traveled to MWC2019 to demonstrate its new, artificial intelligence-powered Natural Interaction technology, which empowers drivers with three onboard means of communications that make interacting with a car as straightforward as talking to a friend.

Natural Interaction builds on technologies such as voice commands and gesture recognition that are already available in select series-produced BMW models, like the 7 Series, and it adds a forward-looking feature (pun intended) called gaze recognition that tracks the driver’s eyes. Drivers don’t need to tell the car how they want to communicate; the software automatically detects instructions, and executes them immediately. Someone driving alone can say “I’m cold” to turn the heater up. If four passengers are having a conversation, or if the radio is on full blast, the driver will likely prefer to turn the heat up with a hand gesture.

BMW noted Natural Interaction lets the passengers perform a variety of functions including opening or closing the windows and the sunroof, adjusting the air vents, or selecting an icon on the screen that displays the infotainment system. They can also point to a button and ask the car what it does. Artificial intelligence helps the car learn each user’s habits. This technology promises to make driving more convenient, and it paves the way for the lounge-like interiors that designers often create for autonomous concept cars.

“People shouldn’t have to think about which operating strategy to use to get what they want. They should always be able to decide freely — and the car should still understand them. BMW Natural Interaction is also an important step for the future of autonomous vehicles, when interior concepts will no longer be geared solely toward the driver’s position and occupants will have more freedom,” said Christoph Grote, the senior vice president of BMW Group Electronics.

Linking Natural Interaction with connected services expands the system’s usefulness well outside of the car. For example, the driver can point to a restaurant in his or her field of vision and ask the car for more information, like its opening hours or customer ratings. Looking ahead, BMW predicts Natural Interaction will tell drivers whether they’re allowed to park in a given spot, how much it will cost, and let them pay for it — all without pushing a button on the car’s dashboard or on a smartphone.

Natural Interaction is one of the technologies BMW will pack into the production version of the iNext concept it unveiled in 2018. It’s shaping up to be a rolling display of the company’s engineering might: it will be entirely electric, it will offer a high degree of autonomy, and it will feature what BMW proudly called “an interior of the future.” Look for the iNext — a name that likely won’t be retained — in showrooms in 2021.

Cars

Automakers are spending billions on self-driving technology people are afraid of

Automakers are spending billions of dollars on developing the technology that will power self-driving cars, but research shows consumers have no interest in giving up control. Will they ever recoup their investment?
Gaming

No Man’s Sky Online is a radical — and free — multiplayer coming this summer

Hello Games has announced the Beyond update for No Man's Sky, a major content addition that will apparently transform how multiplayer and social interactions work within the survival game.
Podcasts

Law Enforcement and Technology: What is the right balance?

Mobile technology is finally advancing out of the standard form we've become used to. The Samsung Galaxy Fold is one example of further innovation and possibly a redesign of how we communicate and interact with our devices. Will 5G…
Movies & TV

Netflix promises more interactive content like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Netflix is prioritizing interactive movies and TV series like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, according to an executive for the streaming service, with future content currently in the works.
Cars

Karma Automotive continues clawing back from the brink with three new cars

Karma Automotive will bring three new cars to the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show, including a long overdue redesigned version of its Revero plug-in hybrid and an all-electric concept car.
Cars

Nuro’s awesome robot delivery pods are tootling into Texas

Robo-delivery startup Nuro is taking its cool-looking autonomous delivery pods to Texas. The pods will deliver Kroger groceries to customers' doors in Houston following a successful pilot program in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Cars

Unrestrained by heritage, Polestar sets its sights on becoming a digital brand

With no heritage to worry about, Polestar is free to move full-speed ahead towards its goal of becoming a digital brand. All of the company's upcoming models will be electric, and they will inaugurate an Android-powered infotainment system.
Cars

Sibling rivalry: The Tesla Model Y takes on the Tesla Model 3

Tesla expanded its lineup with a fourth car named Model Y. It's an electric crossover positioned as a more spacious alternative to the Model 3. The two cars share about 75 percent of their components, but they're aimed at different buyers.
Cars

Can electric cars be S3XY? Tesla says yes with the new Model Y crossover

Tesla introduced a crossover named Model Y at its design studio in Los Angeles. It's a more spacious alternative to the Model 3 it shares 75 percent of its parts with, and is a smaller sibling to the Model X.
Cars

Adventurous and electric, Porsche’s second station wagon will arrive in 2020

The Mission E Cross Turismo concept Porsche unveiled during the 2018 Geneva Auto Show will morph into a production model tentatively named Taycan Cross Turismo. This 600-horsepower electric station wagon will arrive in showrooms by 2021.
Cars

Mustang-like and electrified. What did Ford just show a preview of?

Ford posted an enigmatic picture of a blue Mustang emblem on a black background right as Tesla prepared to introduce the Model Y. Is the Blue Oval teasing a hybrid Mustang, or is it previewing a Mustang-inspired, battery-powered crossover?
Cars

Amazon and Kia team up to simplify EV home-charging station installs

Kia Motors announced a new program with Amazon for electric vehicles. Customers planning to purchase a new Kia EV or PHEV can check out recommended Level 2 240-volt home charging stations and arrange installation in their homes.
Cars

Audi’s traffic light information system shows the challenges facing V2X tech

Audi’s traffic light information system is among the first commercial applications of potentially game-changing V2X tech. So how does it work in the real world? We spent a few days getting stuck at red lights to find out.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!