BMW HoloActive Touch controls will turn heads at CES 2017

The race towards self-driving, autonomous cars seems to have gone quiet lately. And although they surfaced in news this week, they weren't exactly seen in a very positive light. At CES 2017 next month, however, car makers have the chance to rekindle interest in this future technology, and BMW is definitely not going to pass up that chance. Combining everything it had learned from its HUD and gesture control features, the BMW HoloActive Touch will make drivers feel like wizards making magic in the air to control their cars.

Arthur C. Clarke is often quoted to have said that any sufficiently advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic, and this might be the case with the BMW's holographic control panel. Like its Heads-up Display, it uses smoke and mirrors, actually just mirrors, to project a full color display. Unlike that HUD, however, the image really does seem to float in the interior of the vehicle instead of being projected onto the windshield.

That might make for fancy visuals, but the system doesn't stop there. There are cameras that keep an eye on the driver's hands, fingers to be exact, and determines if a finger has made contact with one of the virtual control pads. If it does, a pulse is generated and the appropriate action is taken. BMW doesn't detail which actions and controls will be available, but it does hint that some of its BMW Connected services will be floating in the air.

Fantastic and futuristic as it may sound, it is one of those things that we'll have to see and "not touch" to really believe. The virtual controls are displayed next to the steering wheel at the same height as the center console to offer an ergonomic and safe reach for such an unfamiliar interface. BWM, however, insists that the new system will still offer a tangible experience familiar to drivers. That one we've got to see. Or rather, touch, if we can.

Luckily, we won't have to wait long. BMW will be showing off the HoloActive Touch system inside one of its BMW i Inside Future concept cars at CES. That will be from January 5th to 8th in Las Vegas. As astounding as it might sound, it is really just one of the chess pieces that BMW is setting up for the connected and autonomous car of the future.