BMW's new gesture-controlled 7 Series shows us how it's done

We've seen gesture-recognition technology in prototypes of products developed by Google and other companies. We've all seen Minority Report. But the BMW 7 Series is here, right now.

bmw active assist 2

For car enthusiasts, this week's debut of the BMW 7 Series uber-premium sedan was a big event. The look, feel and drive of the car is the usual work of art that the German auto-maker routinely delivers, as are the many little touches that scream out luxury ride: touch-sensitive climate control gear, a fragrance injector for the cabin, a panoramic moon roof with a sky scene etched into the glass, to name just a few.

For tech aficionados -- or at least those watching the evolution of gesture recognition technology -- the debut, likewise, was a grand occasion, albeit for a much different reason (well, okay, I would guess this group was also impressed by the aforementioned).

The 2016 models -- which will include a six-cylinder 740i, a V-8 all-wheel-drive 750i xDriv and, later in the year, a plug-in hybrid -- will be the industry's first use of gesture-recognition controls in a production car. Yes, connected cars are expected shortly and self-driving autos will not be far behind. But gesture recognition is here. 

There are five gestures the 7 Series recognizes, via as in-car infrared camera that can track hand movements. These include a left-to-right wave to reject an incoming call and a pointing index finger that signifies the incoming call is to be accepted.

Watch the video to see it in action.

This is hardly the only high-tech advance for the 7 Series, by the way. It also features self-parking. Watch.

The gesture control features, though, are particularly intriguing because they provide a real life example of what this technology can do, eventually in a range of industries.

Waiting for Project Soli

Other gesture-controlled products designed for mainstream use are surely not that far behind. At Google's annual I/O developer conference, the company showed off how Soli was progressing. Developed by its Advanced Technologies and Projects group, Soli is sensor-based finger control technology that, when embedded in a product or device -- or clothes -- will allow users to interact with it using gestures. One example might be pinching a thumb and index finger together to, say, turn up the volume on a smart phone.

Which sounds interesting too, but right now it can't compare to zooming down a highway in the six-cylinder 740i, answering the phone with a casual wave of the hand.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

Computerworld's IT Salary Survey 2017 results
Shop Tech Products at Amazon