Gesture recognition makes dials, buttons obsolete

Buttons and dials may become obsolete to control your car's radio, heater and navigation system. That’s because those functions can now be managed with the wave of the hand.

Gesture-recognition technology could appear in a production car as early as next year, SoftKinetic Chief Marketing Officer Eric Krzeslo told me on the sidelines of the we.CONECT Car HMI Concepts & Systems conference in Berlin last week. He declined to reveal which automaker will debut the technology.

SoftKinetic and automotive semiconductor maker Melexis used the event to showcase their 3-D sensor, which lets the driver control the navigation, entertainment and climate control systems with simple hand movements.

After a few minutes of instruction I was able to pick playlists, raise and lower the volume on the music, make phone calls and adjust the air conditioner's temperature and fan speed -- all without taking my eyes off the road.

The sensor works in full sunlight or complete darkness.

SoftKinetic primarily provides 3-D vision and gesture-recognition solutions for consumer electronics such as interactive video games, but Krzeslo says the Belgian company’s automotive business, which accounts for about 25 percent of total sales, is poised to see fast growth. It licenses its technology to global suppliers such as Delphi.

See how the system works
SoftKinetic's sensor recognized a right hand from a left and knows whether the hand it opened or closed.

Krzeslo said that once a driver becomes familiar with the hand commands, driving a car without the technology feels like being in the Dark Ages.

You can reach Douglas A. Bolduc at -- Follow Douglas A. on Twitter: BolducANE2014

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