Audi: with this technology, the car becomes a spaceship
Published on 08.01.2019
So the longest car trips will soon pass “in flight”
As the Audi e-tron accelerates, an obstacle suddenly appears: a gigantic field of asteroids. Boulders drifting grey and sluggish through space. Spaceships glide between them, in tight, elegant curves. Below floats a planet, a distant, alien landscape. The familiar world that could be seen before getting into the Audi, the streets, houses and other vehicles – all disappeared.
Audi has presented a technology on a closed-off racetrack near Las Vegas that allows passengers to immerse themselves in virtual realities. VR glasses, which are connected to the vehicle computers and navigation systems, show fantasy worlds that adapt to the movements of the car in real time. The system has no use, except to entertain the passengers – but it succeeds quite well.
You quickly forget that you are sitting in a car. Acceleration, braking, driving through curves – all movements become part of the flight through space. The senses suggest that you are no longer sitting in an e-tron, but – somehow – got into a spaceship. If the vehicle goes into a left turn, the spaceship also turns to the left. If the driver of the Audi presses on the gas, the asteroids pass faster.
“We are witnessing the end of linear entertainment”
The experience is only possible in a car, on the living room sofa, for example, the movement would be missing. And roller coasters that work with VR glasses can integrate the movement, but the content is programmed only for a single track. In a sense, they follow a script and cannot spontaneously adapt to the environment.
Nils Wollny, Head of the Group’s Digital Business, calls what Audi has shown “elastic content”. So content that does not run rigidly like a movie, but depends on the outside world. “We are witnessing the end of linear entertainment,” says Wollny. The VR glasses should be able to simulate everything possible, underwater worlds, historical cities, landscapes full of dinosaurs, travel through the bloodstream. According to Audi, studies have shown that passengers rarely feel ill when driving with VR glasses, because the visual and perceived experience are synchronous.
The technology will not only be used in their own vehicles, but will also be made available to other car companies and content developers. Audi has launched a start-up, Holoride, which will market the new entertainment format via an open platform. “Creative minds will create fascinating worlds on our platform and make the journey from A to B an adventure trip,” said Wollny, who will lead Holoride.
Through the subsidiary Audi Electronics Venture GmbH, which has developed the system in recent months, the carmaker holds a minority stake in the new company. Initially, the VR experience will be available in on-demand fleets, later in the cars of ride-sharing providers such as Uber – and one day also in private cars.