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Texas Instruments’ DLP car console display matches a car’s curves

Texus Instruments DLP Center Console Prototype

Unlike the curvaceous dashboards they end up shoehorned into, automotive infotainment screens are flat by necessity. But at CES 2013, Texas Instruments gave us a pretty exciting look into the future of infotainment displays with a brief demonstration of its curvy prototype DLP center console.

By using digital light projection (DLP) technology rather than the usual LCD tech, TI’s console is able to mold to a car’s dash, opening the door for entirely new and ergonomic ways to interact with infotainment systems.

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The display we saw reminded us of Tesla’s gorgeous LCD screen found in the model S, with a literal twist: TI’s screen curved at the top and the sides. Despite the different technology, it looked vivid, sharp, and handled high-resolution graphics. Tesla’s screen is powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 3, but TI’s prototype is powered by its own OMAP 5 (Open Multimedia Applications Platform).

Fitting curves isn’t the only perk of in-car DLP technology. Near-infrared sensors allow the screen to not only detect touch as an LCD would, but determine whether those taps came from the driver or the passenger. Existing infotainment systems tend to lock out features from both passengers and drivers while a vehicle is in motion, so being able to make this distinction means passengers can now interact freely with features that may have otherwise been shuttered for safety.

The same near-infrared technology also allows the system to detect approaching hands and change what’s on the screen accordingly. For instance, it might hide controls to show more of a map, then reveal them when you raise a hand to enter an address. (To be fair, drivers can already get a similar experience in the 2013 Cadillac ATS.)

Unlike an LCD screen, DLP projection also allows physical controls to be set in the middle screen, like the volume dial in the photo above. For drivers torn between the clean look of touch controls and the ease of adjusting tactile controls like buttons and knobs, this system could deliver the best of both worlds.

So when can we expect to see such a display make its way into production vehicles? Don’t put off your next car purchase to wait. TI couldn’t give an exact date, but says the technology is still about five to seven years out. 

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New apps and iPhone 5 support headed to Pioneer’s AppRadio
New apps and iPhone 5 support headed to Pioneer's AppRadio

When Apple released the iPhone 5, it naturally created quite the buzz, and consumers flocked to the company’s latest and greatest smartphone in droves. While the iPhone 5 featured a larger screen and a host of other improvements, one aspect that people weren’t so keen on was the switch from a 30-pin dock connector to the new Lightning connector. The switch from the old to the new meant that manufacturer and aftermarket companies, including Pioneer, were going to have to offer new connectivity solutions for Apple’s latest device.
As it turns out, Pioneer, is... well, pioneering this space, and at CES 2013, the company revealed a kit that adds iPhone 5 connectivity to its AppRadio receivers. To use an iPhone 5, the AppRadio receiver requires Apple’s Lightning-to-Digital-AV cable, a Lightning-to-USB adapter connected to a new CD-IH202 connectivity kit, and the AppRadio app for the iPhone 5.
Additionally, Pioneer announced a host of new apps that are compatible with AppRadio, including Beej, Maxthon Cloud Browswer, Parkopedia, Glympse, Rdio, and iHeartRadio.
The new iPhone 5 CD-IH202 connectivity kits should be available in the spring in addition to a firmware update to the current AppRadio 2 hardware support for the iPhone 5.

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Hyundai has us seeing double vision with its mirroring infotainment prototype
Hyundai infotainment screen protoype homescreen

The car is a great place to utilize all those wonderful apps sprawled out on your phone’s screen – assuming you do so safely .The problem with all those wonderful apps though, is that they don’t always translate well to your car’s infotainment system, and suffice it to say that sucks. It sucks big time.
A few automakers are trying to solve this incredibly frustrating conundrum, both Ford and GM released SDKs this week to the virtually unlimited pool of creativity that is the Internet. The idea being that placing these kits out there would foster creativity, allow developers to monetize their ideas, benefit OEMs like Ford and GM, but perhaps more importantly, benefit consumers with apps that integrate seamlessly with the car.
At CES this week, however, Hyundai introduced a different vision of the future. The Korean automaker showed off a number of prototypes of future infotainment solutions, the most compelling being a demo where your vehicle’s screen would mirror that of your smartphone. Simply connect your phone to your car and the vehicle’s display mirrors exactly what’s on your tiny screen.

We got some brief hands on time with the demo and found it worked surprisingly well. Opening an app on the head unit caused the app to open from the phone and vice versa. Not all apps will work, however, and Hyundai pointed out that certain apps that featured video, heavy amounts of text, or games would be automatically blocked.
The unit’s display was cabled to a Samsung Galaxy S3, but Hyundai reps say it will work with other operating systems and works via Bluetooth, too.
Hyundai’s prototype being ... well, a prototype means we can’t say when, or if, we’ll see the technology make its way to production any time soon, but we’re guessing we will.

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Ford begins paving the way to a modular motoring world with launch of OpenXC platform
2013 Ford Fusion

One of the most remarkable characteristics of mobile devices is the sheer amount of ingenious apps they've spawned. Many apps rely on the native hardware found on the device they’re running on, while others mine information from the vehicle itself. These few apps already do a good job of utilizing information from a vehicle, but full access to this data is generally fenced off and manufacturer specific. To help open up this isolated system, Ford launched a beta version last year of its OpenXC project. The open source project supplies both hardware and software SDKs to aspiring developers, granting access to vehicle metrics for a car’s internal systems. Now, Ford is moving its project from beta to full on release.
As Ford’s research lab leader at the company’s Silicon Valley Lab, TJ Giuli, told us this week, OpenXC is squarely aimed at the development community. “It’s kind of a tough message that we’ve gone back and forth with. How do we communicate this right? Basically AppLink and Sync are our in-production technology, so if you’re an app developer that kind of wants to actually see your app and go deploy it into over a million Ford vehicles, and potentially make money, you go with Applink, but as a research platform OpenXC is able to evolve much more quickly.”
Ford and GM have already begun courting the creative crowd by laying out their in-car app strategies, both of which involve giving developers easy access to software SDKs. In truth, however, the recent announcements really amount to tools for software developers looking to commercialize their apps and, as Guili points out, utilize existing vehicle hardware.

Of course the whole OpenXC platform is dependent on data from the vehicle, which is nearly impossible for developers to access on their own. As Guili explains, “Right now the platform is based on Android and what we do is we plug into the OBD II port and read all the sensor data and all the engine performance runtime, powertrain information coming across the internal vehicle networks and translate it from an obscure Ford format into a Ford independent open standard.”
But not all data can be pulled by using OBD II, and what Guili and his team are looking to provide developers is a deeper level of metrics. “OBD II is a common set of federally mandated protocol messages across all the OEMS, but we actually get deeper than that, stuff that isn’t required in the OBD spec, says Guili.
One of the interesting applications Guili recalled working on was a car that could tweet its mood. As he recalled, “I was involved in this project called American Journey 2.0, and one of the things we did was we made a tweeting car. We kinda gave the car almost an emotional persona, so there were things it liked and didn’t liked, kind of a rudimentary emotional model of the car so if it does things that it likes then it gets happy and actually tweets happy tweets, and so one of the things it liked was fun drives. And so we were able to, by looking at the steering wheel angle and the rate of change of the steering wheel angle, the accelerator and pedal position, engine RPMs and speed, was figure out that you’re really going on this curvy road and then it [the car] actually takes a GPS trace of where you’re going and then tweets a Google map that says “hey I did this awesome drive and my average speed was this.”

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