BMW's Mini develops Mixed Reality technology for cars

BMW's Mini develops Mixed Reality technology for cars

Mini provides an insight into its innovative mixed reality system for vehicles, which blurs the boundaries between the virtual and real worlds.

FACTS

The car manufacturer Mini is working on mixed reality technology for its vehicles. This system is designed to allow drivers to immerse themselves in a digitally augmented reality without having to leave the car.

Mini's mixed reality works like this: Upon entering a new all-electric Mini Cooper, occupants put on a VR/AR headset. The environment then changes seamlessly as a vibrant, dynamic Mini VR world appears in the car's windows.

Despite the virtual scenery, the driver retains full awareness of his physical surroundings thanks to external camera streams. This enhances the visual appeal of the ride and integrates seamlessly with the actual navigation of the vehicle through the physical world.

At the heart of Mini's Mixed Reality is a system with a specially adapted high-end PC. This runs the customized Mini VR World software. This system streams content directly to the VR headset and creates an immersive and responsive driving environment through precise headset tracking, synchronized acceleration sensors, ambient sound customization and integrated vehicle interfaces.

As part of the BMW Group, this technology is currently being used for various testing and validation purposes, including user studies to improve automated driving systems.

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CONTEXT

Drive-synchronized VR experiences for passengers

German startup Holoride is also working on in-car VR, but is focusing on entertainment. In November 2022, it brought VR experiences to select Audi models that are synchronized with the driving experience. Using an HTC Vive Flow, users of the Holoride system experience VR games, apps, and other content that react to the vehicle's movements while driving.

In January 2023, Holoride announced a retrofit package that will make almost any car VR-ready. The hardware looks like a small, black smart speaker and attaches to the windshield with a suction cup. It records the car's motion data and transmits it to the VR headset.

But despite innovative ideas and big-name partners, Holoride had to file for bankruptcy in July 2023. CEO and co-founder Nils Wollny announced on LinkedIn that an investment round that was thought to be a sure thing fell through at the last minute. He sees the bankruptcy proceedings as an opportunity for a fresh start with new investors or owners.

Mini's mixed reality system and Holoride's VR aftermarket solution show that the automotive industry is increasingly experimenting with immersive technologies to redefine the driving experience. It remains to be seen if and when such systems will gain widespread acceptance. In addition to technological hurdles, safety concerns and regulatory requirements must be overcome before widespread adoption is possible.

Sources: Drivencarguide