Official Release: The continuing growth in the number of integration options offered by BMW ConnectedDrive has been accompanied by an increase in the scope of personalised infotainment available to customers. Indeed, vehicles can already be specified with a wealth of information and entertainment technology. Familiar functions such as FM, DAB+ and satellite radio, local infotainment servers, USB, iPod and iPhone integration, MP3 players and mobile phones have been joined by new BMW ConnectedDrive services such as office functions with email access and calendars, and new media like Facebook, Twitter and podcasts. Each of these sources contains information which may be of interest to customers. Yet all this content has to be selected according to source; in other words, drivers not only have to decide what they want to listen to, but also know where to find it. Intelligent search functions and intuitive control systems, such as the voice operation function available from BMW ConnectedDrive for the user’s music collection, can make source-based searches significantly easier. However, the Infotainment Assistant – a new BMW Group research project already tested in a vehicle prototype – goes a step further. This intelligent system overcomes the barriers of source identification and opens the door to personalised infotainment on a whole new level.

“Our aim with the Infotainment Assistant is to look at all the information and entertainment options available to customers inside the vehicle, filter out content which might be relevant and interesting to them, and present it to them without them having to lift a finger.” (Thomas Helbig, Project Manager Online Entertainment)

The Infotainment Assistant plays the role of personal butler to the driver during a journey, proffering suggestions on entertaining or informative content. The suggestions are geared towards the driver’s preferences and the driving situation at hand, ensuring that the range of options always hits the mark.
To this end, the Infotainment Assistant compiles an all-round infotainment portfolio of office, news and personalised music content. To do this the current prototype accesses podcasts, an email service, a calendar service, a music community and a music provider. It uses these sources to select and suggest content tailored to the situation and the user. For example, the Infotainment Assistant detects if the driver is running late for a meeting by checking the next appointment entry in the calendar and the time and destination entered into the route guidance function of the navigation system. The new technology can then compose an email informing the other people due to attend the meeting that the driver has been delayed. Equally, if the meeting is put back the assistance system updates the driver on the time he now has in hand.

The different content is presented as if by a personalised radio station, with important emails, calendar entries or favourite songs from friends in the community incorporated dynamically. Text-based content, such as emails, calendar entries or information from communities such as Twitter, is read out through the speakers via the Text to Speech function in order to distract the driver as little as possible from the task of driving.

The assistance system recommends, the driver decides.

As well as using audio output, the prototype also presents the various content in visual form in the central information display. Here, drivers can view the current selection and content presented previously, and this is also where the Infotainment Assistant flashes up its next suggestion. This personalised “infotainment horizon” can be altered at any time. For example, the driver can skip to the next item, actively reject one of the assistance system’s suggestions or miss out several items and go straight to something of particular interest, such as new emails. In the same way, drivers can also state their wish to stay with the current content and only listen to music, for example, from now on. The Infotainment Assistant registers each of these active interventions and refines its selection of content for the future; every entry from the driver adds to the system’s knowledge base. In order to make content as easy as possible to identify, it is presented to the driver – in Cover Flow-style – using icons through which the driver can navigate.

Drivers may also like to enter some core preferences before they use the system for the first time so the Infotainment Assistant has one or two pointers on which to base its recommendations. The aim here is to use a small number of details to prompt the system into drawing as many conclusions as possible on habits and wishes. The more the system is used, the more accurate the personalisation.
“It is important to us that the Infotainment Assistant presents the customers with a personal and well-chosen range of content. Drivers can choose to hand over compilation of their entertainment programme to the assistance system entirely. But if they intervene to make a choice, the assistance system automatically registers their selections.” (Dr Wolfgang Haberl, Project Manager Future In-car Entertainment at BMW Group Research and Technology)

News in the morning, music in the evening.

The Infotainment Assistant also allows suggestions to be adapted to suit the situation. On the way to work, for example, drivers may like to set the system to prioritise incoming emails and news, with the odd musical interlude in between. In other circumstances, however, they might prefer to listen to music and nothing else, or only to sports news. Users can compile these profiles themselves and tweak them according to the services available.

The aim of the Infotainment Assistant is to entertain and inform drivers as effectively as possible – according to their preferences – during their journey, regardless of the source from which the information and content have been taken. In so doing, the system offers personalised, straightforward and fast access to content, and ensures it never stops learning.