This is a scene from the trailer by holoride GmbH, a spin-off in which Audi Electronics Venture GmbH holds a minority interest. It mirrors a situation that a lot of parents are quite familiar with: While the driver enjoys the driving experience, everyone else perceives their travel time as time wasted. Sure, there are ways to kill time, but is time not way too precious for just being killed, really? Wouldn’t it be great if every single car ride became a unique experience for everyone in the car?
The young woman grabs the Virtual Reality headset lying next to her. She puts it on and all of a sudden finds herself in the middle of a fascinating game. Now it seems as if the Audi e-tron is no longer driving past the city’s grey building facades. Instead it is moving through a colorful fantasy world populated by blue and white little chickens, so it seems. As the car stops at a pedestrian crossing in the real world, the vehicle stops in the virtual reality as well and the little chickens can pass. With the controller in her right hand, the young woman can aim for the chickens and is rewarded with hit points.
The fusion of the vehicle data and the game content is perfect: With each bend along the way, with each acceleration of the car and each application of the brakes, the virtual reality experience is shaped. In a similar way, the young woman is flying through a prehistoric landscape on a dinosaur and navigating a spaceship through space later on in the trailer.
The young woman in the backseat of an Audi e-tron is struggling. Struggling with tiredness and with boredom. She is fidgeting with her hands and looking out of the window with lack of interest. While chewing on a dark-painted fingernail she sighs. Everything about her is asking: Are we there yet?
* * * Fuel consumption combined *: 26.2-22.5 kWh/100kmCO₂-emissions combined *: 0 g/km
Audi brings stories to life in the car
Extended Reality (XR) is an umbrella term for Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). With the new technology an extra dimension is added to this Extended Reality:
“We took relevant data points like location, speed, steering, acceleration and braking – and matched these with artificial environments. By doing so, we not only created a perfectly motion-synchronized journey through virtual worlds, but something radically new that entertains backseat passengers in an unseen way,” says Nils Wollny, co-founder and CEO of holoride (as of February 1, 2019).
Even for a passenger who travels the same route everyday, the VR headset will provide a new experience every time. The little chickens at the pedestrian crossing might not be there anymore the next day because the car ride in the real world will also be different. This way a whole new media format emerges: elastic content.
Due to the haptic feedback of the real drive, the virtual experience feels incredibly realistic and more intense than ever before.
The technology was developed by engineers at Audi Electronics Venture GmbH and presented for the first time at the CES 2019 in Las Vegas. The first virtual worlds of this showcase project were created in cooperation with Disney’s experts for Games and Interactive Experiences. „When Audi called us with the idea, we were excited about the possibility of bringing our characters and stories to life in a car environment,“ says Mike Goslin, Vice President of Disney Games and Interactive Experiences.
User testing confirms: strong immersion, less motion sickness
A study with 44 participants showed how impressive the technology is: A drive with this new entertainment category evokes especially strong immersion. Immersion means that Virtual Reality is perceived as exceptionally real.
“You are completely integrated, you become a part of it, you’re totally captured,” says one of the participants of the study. Another one asks: “How is it possible for me to get this lost in a game?” Parents were particularly enthusiastic about the prototype and said they intended to use the system for long car rides with their kids as soon as it becomes available.
When interviewed before the trial (values on the left), only 18 percent of the study participants stated that they usually don’t have any problems with motion sickness. When using holoride technology (values on the right), 53 percent experienced a journey without any symptoms of nausea.
* * * An interesting side effect is that the technology seems to reduce motion sickness, too. A lot of people are not able to read or watch videos when they are passengers without feeling nauseous. During testing of this novel technology, however, three times as many participants as would have been expected to get motion sick based on their history did not have any problems with motion sickness this time at all. The reason for this could be that the body perceives staring at a book or a smartphone as a contradiction to the dynamic motions of the car. With holoride, on the other hand, the motions in the virtual world are in sync with those of the car.
The 25th hour: autonomous cars bring the gift of extra time to people
Content, especially entertainment, will become a major driving force for the mobility experience of the future.
Behind the idea of holoride lie the questions of how mobility is going to change over the years to come and what this is going to mean for the experiences we have inside cars. The idea is that with entirely autonomous cars, people will gain up to one extra hour each day, equaling the time they used to spend behind the steering wheel of their car. This is what Audi calls the 25th hour. This extra free time will make digital services in vehicles even more important.
By the way, it is not the first time for Audi to be a game changer. The development of the famous Audi quattro already changed the driving experience radically
VR headsets: commercially available devices are supported
* * * The holoride technology is not supposed to only be used in Audi vehicles. It will be made available for all car manufacturers. Holoride wants to launch the technology to market within the next three years for backseat passengers with commercially available VR headsets.
So what about the young woman from the trailer, after all? As the Audi e-tron stops and the game ends with the notice “level completed”, she takes off the VR headset. Her only question is: “Are we there yet?”
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