With this technology, the car becomes a spaceship

With this technology, the car becomes a spaceship

Published on 08.01.2019

So the longest car journeys will soon pass ” as if in flight“

As the Audi e-tron accelerates, an obstacle suddenly appears: a gigantic field of asteroids. Boulders drifting gray and sluggish through space. Spaceships glide between them, in tight, elegant curves. Below floats a planet, a distant, strange landscape. The familiar world that could be seen before boarding the Audi, the streets, houses and other vehicles – all disappeared.

Audi has presented a technology on a closed race track near Las Vegas that immerses passengers in virtual realities. VR glasses 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 pretty well.

You quickly forget that you are sitting in a car. Accelerating, 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 turns to the left, the spaceship also turns to the left. If the driver of the Audi pushes 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 movement, but the content is only programmed for a single track. In a way, 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 film, but depends on the outside world. “We are seeing 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, journeys through the bloodstream. According to Audi, studies have shown that passengers rarely feel bad when driving with VR glasses because the visual and emotional experience are synchronous.

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The technology will not only be used in the company’s own vehicles, but will also be made available to other car companies and content developers. Audi 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 ride,” said Wollny, who will lead Holoride.

Through its subsidiary Audi Electronics Venture GmbH, which has developed the system in recent months, the carmaker holds a minority stake in the new company. First, the VR experience will be available in on-demand fleets, later in the cars of ridesharing providers such as Uber – and one day in private cars.

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