The movies Minority Report and Iron Man opened our imaginations to a world where we can give commands and manipulate content on screens just by moving our limbs. And then came game console technology like Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect, bringing advanced gesture recognition to the living room.

BMW has been experimenting with ways to bring gesture control to the automobile. The use of gesture recognition in the car is subject to various restrictions, since it has to take into account a number of requirements which are less important in the field of home entertainment or smartphones.

In the vehicle environment, gestures must be short, concise and unambiguous. Performing them must not cause more than brief distraction and must not negatively impact the driving task in any way.

For now, BMW is only using gestures to control very specific functions of the iDrive display. Basically they found that operating the entire iDrive system via gestures is impractical with the current level of technologies. It is currently in no way intended as a substitute for the iDrive controller knob. Instead, BMW is using simple gestures to control the split screen feature of the iDrive screen.

You can watch the video above to view the prototype gesture system in action. A sensor mounted on the rear view mirror captures your hand movement – move to the left or right to switch the split screen on or off, or move up and down to scroll between the different content that the split screen can display. You can also move your hand towards the screen to go back to the main menu.

BMW’s gesture research work continues to further fine tune it to rule out the risk of incorrect inputs, so that typical hand movements to the gesture area to do things such as operate the gear selector are not misinterpreted as a command geature.