New advancements in touchscreen technology will help car makers make the way we control our car’s entertainment and other systems more natural feeling.
Car manufacturers are finally beginning to catch up on technology integration, with many cars now coming standard with touchscreens large and small, but many systems are clunky at best. To make matters worse, we’ve lost our old friends, ol’ fashioned physical buttons. No friendly click. No way of feeling blindly for that next track button you’ve used a hundred times that week. The driver is left only a smooth and sometimes glare-blocked screen, distracting them from the important task in front of them.
Many states currently ban text messaging while driving due to this same type of distraction, but for some reason these massive touchscreens get a pass, at least by legislators. Consumer reliability studies are another matter, however, with automakers like Ford taking a hit because customers become easily frustrated with the MyFord Touch system.
Fortunately, there are people outside of the auto industry coming up with much better solutions, and these advancements are making their way into cars, slowly but surely.
Matthaeus Krenn, formerly a product designer for CUE (a personal assistant app), has come up with an interesting concept to do just that. The simply named “New Car UI” is based on the idea that touchscreens need to be forgiving. Traditional small, stationary controls require the type of precise movement that is difficult on a bumpy road. Krenn’s UI uses the entire screen as a single control that’s operated by your gestures and the number of fingers used during operation. A two fingered up or down swipe changes the volume. Three fingered swipes open the source menu and cycle the available inputs. Using four fingers controls the temperature and five changes the climate control mode. In its current state there are some major features left unfulfilled, but this is still in a concept state and will undoubtedly gain features if it gains traction.
While folks like Krenn believe the entire interface needs to be redesigned in order to gain real effectiveness, others believe that what we need is to merge the feel of buttons with the variability of LCD screens. This is where Tactus Technology comes in. Tactus has created what they are calling “a new dimension of touch.” Utilizing microfluid technology, the top polymer layer of the touchscreen is injected through small channels, raising a portion of the layer and creating the button feel we have come to know and love. As with Krenn’s designs, the Tactus designs are merely conceptual prototypes at the moment, and are still far from production ready.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t huge potential in these ideas. Rather, these two ideas shine with potential when you consider all the automotive applications, and this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. From traffic-spotting drones and Internet hotspots to cars that will eventually drive themselves, the auto industry needs to keep looking for ideas like this to bring into their products.