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In-car touchscreen tech becomes more tactile with new Bosch displays

By raccars Published

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Bosch has developed a new type of touchscreen which gives users the impression that they are interacting with physical buttons.

Although many people will have first experienced touchscreen technology following the launch of the original iPhone in 2007, the earliest displays which had the ability to register user interactions without the need for physical buttons came into existence over four decades ago. And you can now find touchscreen tech in many different places, including within modern cars. In fact touchscreen infotainment systems have become a mainstream feature of vehicles and are no longer reserved solely for high end saloons.

The main issue with touchscreens is that because the display is a solid, flat surface and inputs are registered using either capacitive or resistive technologies, there is no physical feedback associated with interacting with on-screen inputs. Conversely with traditional buttons it is easy to tell when they have been pushed because we feel the click with our fingertips.

Touchscreen manufacturers have tried to address this over the years, with haptic feedback using integrated vibration motors and audio cues. Both of these solutions have proved to be moderately successful, acting as stand-ins for the physical button experience. But now a new type of display developed by Bosch is combining these techniques in a way that can apparently make a touchscreen feel as though it features a physical button. And the first place it is intending to use this technology is in the production of dashboard-integrated displays, according to Gizmodo.

New display horizons

Although Bosch is still working on the system, the good news is that it is not something which exists solely in theory. In fact the company is confident that it could quickly be embraced by the display manufacturing industry. As such, it has the potential to become a standard feature in cars within the next few years.

The aforementioned haptic feedback is combined with sound to enable the Bosch touchscreen to emulate the feel and texture of real buttons on its display. And the system is so advanced that it can even create varying degrees of roughness or smoothness on-screen, as well as giving each ‘button’ that appears its own defined edge so that they can be distinguished from one another.

The display will not react solely to the touch of the user, but will be able to work out how much pressure is being applied and therefore only register interactions if they are firm and deliberate. This should make the touchscreen more intuitive to use and reduce the likelihood of accidental interactions.

Safety benefits

This is by no means simply about making things more convenient for users, but is very much about improving levels of safety associated with the use of infotainment systems in cars. With current touchscreen interfaces, drivers may be compelled to take their eyes away from the road to ensure that they are accurately hitting the buttons on-screen. And Bosch is keen to use this new technology to usher in a return to the era wherein car radios could be tuned by touch alone, when physical buttons were easy to distinguish from one another and people could look straight ahead while changing station.

Bosch has not announced any partnerships with automotive manufacturers thus far, but there is every likelihood that this advanced, button-emulating touchscreen tech will be embraced by third parties. The first devices to feature it may be separate sat-nav systems. And anyone who is less than enamoured with the increasing prevalence of touchscreen displays in car dashboards will probably be pleased to see this impressive technology coming into use.

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