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BMW Introduces Gesture Control, but Widespread Adoption Unlikely

by Derek Viita | Jul 27, 2015

As initially hinted at CES 2015, BMW will roll out gesture controls as a standard feature in its 7-series later this year.  This will allow drivers to control certain aspects of the infotainment system using what BMW is calling “simple, intuitive hand gestures.”  The In-Vehicle UX service at Strategy Analytics will be benchmarking the BMW 7-series with gesture control in an upcoming report.

Gesture-initiated control of an infotainment system has been a topic of interest among OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers for many years, though BMW is the first to bring it to market in a big way.  However, we do not foresee widespread adoption of gesture controls as a primary HMI.  Gesture controls will remain niche for three key reasons.

First, proper use will require a non-trivial amount of training from a sales representative in the showroom.  Successful input requires the user’s hand to be placed within certain boundaries throughout the entire gesture.  Even for what might be considered “intuitive” gestures, proper hand placement is crucial for the gesture control to operate as intended.

Second, gesture recognition provides minimal added value to the consumer.  The entire set of gestures that could be used for infotainment tasks, and remembered easily by the user, is likely quite small.  Gestures are also not contextual, meaning that a single gesture aligns to only one single command regardless of the infotainment feature the user is engaged with at the time.

Third, long-term adoption and usage of gesture controls in a moving vehicle will prove to be very different than in a simulator.  As we typically see with other HMI modalities like voice recognition, users have limited tolerance for errors or poor performance before they revert to other modalities which (while more comfortable for the user) might not be as safe while driving.  With gesture controls, we foresee higher likelihood of accidental activation and poor error recovery, both of which will prove to be easy avenues to a poor user experience.

Gesture controls could certainly appeal to premium car buyers and tech enthusiasts looking for the latest and greatest innovations to add to their vehicle.  But as we discussed in our review of automotive HMI trends, the amount of training involved, lack of compelling use cases, and the difficulties of using in a moving vehicle will hinder widespread, long-term adoption of gesture controls.

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  1. Chenchen Gao | Aug 17, 2015
    Good