Infrared makes multi-finger gesture control affordable

December 18, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Gesture control, already commonplace in consumer electronics, is also finding increasingly acceptance in the automotive environment. So far however, deployment is restricted to upmarket vehicles - for the affordable market segment, the technology is too expensive. Continental now has developed a technology to tap this market segment too.

With what Continental calls an "infrared curtain" the company can offer a cost-effective alternative to capacitive touchscreens. In 2011 the company showcased a system that allowed designers to turn any desired surface in the car into a user interface by means of such an infrared curtain. In the meantime, the system has been further developed to recognise and interpret typical multi-finger gestures like swiping, zooming and pinching. Unlike capacitive touch screens, the infrared technology permits operation if the user wears any type of gloves.

The infrared curtain consists of a row of infrared diodes at the edge of the display. While in one-finger gesture HMI concepts, a single row of LEDs was sufficient, recognising multi-finger gestures requires multiple interconnected rows of infrared light sources. In order to detect a multi-finger gesture, the HMI electronics interprets the blocked light beams as the finger position.

In large-scale production this technology is more cost-effective than current capacitive touch screen displays, says Continental developer Fook Wai Lee from the company's Singapore R&D branch. "The challenge lies in the integration: Our goal is designing IR light source that protrudes only very little over the display surface while being recognising reliably the multi-finger gestures."

The technique will enter series production in 2017. As usual, Continental did not reveal the customer, but usually this kind of announcement takes place only when at least one carmaker has designed the respective product into a series vehicle.

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