In an era where technology is penetrating every industry, the automotive world is not immune. Car manufacturers are increasingly fusing cutting-edge technology with their latest models to create extraordinary experiences.
Leading this innovation, the BMW Group Technology Office USA and Meta’s Reality Labs have recently announced a ground-breaking venture into an immersive realm of extended reality (XR) in vehicles. This collaboration reimagines the automobile space and presents a new frontier for in-car entertainment, information, and safety systems.
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Bridging the Virtual and Physical World
Picture this – passengers in a moving car, wearing VR headsets, engaging in a virtual concert, or catching up on work. As the car whizzes down the highway, the virtual experience remains rock solid, unaffected by turns, speed bumps, or acceleration. Is it science fiction? Well, not anymore.
BMW and Meta’s Reality Labs have crafted a seamless blend of the digital and physical world inside the moving car. This collaboration has birthed a proof-of-concept prototype, effectively overcoming previous technical barriers.
Key Milestone: Stabilizing VR Content
The first and foremost challenge for researchers was stabilizing the VR and MR (mixed reality) content for passengers inside a fast-moving vehicle. Traditionally, VR headsets utilize cameras and motion sensors to understand their exact position. However, these devices would struggle in a moving vehicle, as the vehicle’s movement would conflict with the device’s sensors, causing an unstable and disorienting VR experience.
The researchers at BMW and Meta, therefore, embarked on a journey to decode this complex puzzle. The breakthrough came when they successfully integrated the Meta Quest’s tracking system with BMW’s sensor data, forming a unique marriage of technology.
The Mechanics of The Solution
The solution provided a ‘car-locked’ experience for VR users. This allowed the VR system to track two distinct locations simultaneously – the device’s location relative to the moving car and the car’s location relative to the world. This ability to track dual perspectives accurately anchors virtual objects to a moving vehicle and delivers compelling VR and MR passenger experiences.
The integration of the vehicle’s movement data with the XR headset sensor capabilities allowed for the vehicle’s motion to be subtracted from the equation. As a result, the headset’s movement could be tracked more accurately within the vehicle, enabling real-time rendering of content that is perfectly synced with the movement of the vehicle, whether the car is cruising down a straight road or navigating sharp turns.
Beyond Entertainment: The Bigger Picture
Certainly, the benefits of this technology go beyond entertainment. Claus Dorrer, Head of BMW Group Technology Office USA in Mountain View, envisions a multitude of practical uses, “from assisting the driver in locating their car in a crowded parking lot to alerting them to hazards on the road and surfacing important information about the vehicle’s condition.”
This technological marriage could revolutionize the way drivers interact with their cars, potentially offering a host of features that augment the driver’s experience and boost safety levels. The implications for AR glasses and VR devices in the automobile ecosystem are staggering, and we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface.
Although it’s too early to determine exactly when this technology will be available to the public, it opens up a fascinating future landscape. Richard Newcombe, Vice President of Research Science at Reality Labs Research, envisions a reality where passengers can see markers for landmarks, restaurants, and places of interest.
Richard Newcombe, Vice President of Research Science, Reality Labs Research: “Our research prototype shows that we can enable entertaining and comfortable passenger experiences that are anchored to the car itself, including VR and MR gaming, entertainment, productivity, and even meditation capabilities. The technology has the potential to transform how we can safely interact with our environment while traveling, and as we progress into reliable world-locked content on the road to AR glasses, we’re hopeful it will be possible for passengers to see things like markers for landmarks, restaurants, places of interest, and more.”
What’s more, the BMW Group’s successful track record in pioneering digital technologies and driving industry standardization for such innovations means that they’re perfectly poised to spearhead this venture.
As this research progresses, the BMW Group maintains its commitment to the privacy-by-design principle. All digital feature development will ensure that customer data is protected and securely processed in accordance with data privacy requirements by means of established processes.
As we journey into this exciting new era of interlinking XR devices with the digital vehicle ecosystem, this commitment to privacy will be more important than ever.
The breakthrough achieved by BMW and Meta’s Reality Labs marks a significant step towards revolutionizing our driving and commuting experiences. The convergence of these two worlds – VR and the automobile – could transform the way we view, experience, and interact with our vehicles.
This isn’t just a novelty. It’s a hint of an exciting, immersive future that blurs the line between the physical and digital world, all while keeping us engaged, informed, and safe on the road. Buckle up for a whole new reality on wheels.