Continental’s “infrared curtain” is recognizing multi-touch gestures

December 17, 2014
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Continental has shown its “infrared curtain” technology which is under development since 2011. This technology is aimed at replacing conventional displays in cars. The company’s advanced technology can turn any surface in the car interior into a user interface.

The economical alternative to these conventional touch sensitive capacitive displays can now recognize typical multi-touch gestures as input like swiping, zooming and pinching.

The infrared curtains can detect touch gestures of gloved fingers also. Unlike the capacitive displays, infrared curtains can detect touch gestures done with standard gloves also. The technology will be ready for series production in 2017.

More information is available in the press release below.

Multi-Touch Gestures for all Vehicles Classes: Continental works on a Tapestry of Infrared Light – Press Release

  • Multi-touch gestures possible even in small, affordable vehicles
  • Infrared curtain able to replace more expensive touch displays
  • Great additional feature: gesture recognition works even with gloves

Babenhausen/Germany, December 17, 2014. International automotive supplier Continental is working on intelligent infrared technology for future control designs in affordable cars. Used in ever-more electronic entertainment devices, multi-touch controls will also be enhancing modern display and control systems in the especially price-sensitive car segment. With “infrared curtains,” Continental developers are opting for an economical alternative to touch sensitive, so called capacitive displays.

Continental infrared curtain gesture recognition

“Back in 2011, we showed that an infrared curtain can turn any surface in the car interior into a user interface,” says Fook Wai Lee, display developer at Continental in Singapore. “We have now developed this technology to the point where it also recognizes typical multi-touch gestures as input, like swiping, zooming, and pinching.” The technology even extends the recognition possibilities: capacitive touch screens, as known from modern smartphones, can not be used with standard gloves. Especially designed types of gloves are necessary for the usage of standard touch screens with gloves. “With our infrared technology, there is no need for special gloves – our infrared curtain is able to detect touch gestures of gloved fingers.”

Continental infrared curtain working

Continental’s infrared curtain is built from an array of infrared light sources on the sides of the display. While a single row of LEDs was sufficient for one-finger operation, multi-touch gestures require two rows of infrared lights connected together. If a multi-touch gesture is performed in front of the display, the electronics of the human machine interface (HMI) recognize the finger’s positions from the blocked light. In addition to having a cheaper production format compared to capacitive displays that recognize gestures electronically, infrared curtains can also be operated with gloves on.

“The challenge is in the integration: our goal is an infrared light source that is sticking out only minimally over the display surface yet still recognizes all desired multi-touch gestures,” explains Fook Wai Lee.

Continental infrared curtain

With this technology, the HMI electronics recognize motions like swiping, zooming and pinching. This makes it easy to move around selection menus or change the chosen section on a map. The technology is ready for series production in 2017.

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