Automotive

Audi’s Holoride is a VR experience like no other

Back seat car rides will never be the same again

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It had been a long day, but I could still barely contain my excitement as a fancy car whizzed me down the interstate to a race track on the outskirts of Las Vegas, one chilly evening before the start of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show. 

While the in-seat back massage made me wish the ride was longer, I also couldn’t wait to get there. Tonight would be my first time in an e-Tron, Audi’s new fully electric SUV, and my first taste of what Audi calls the future of mobility, one with entertainment content at its center.

It’s an interesting proposition, one I’m more than willing to chew on. With self-driving vehicles on the horizon, tonight, instead of getting behind the wheel, I take a back seat, put on a VR headset, and trade my current reality for one that promises to be more exhilarating.

Called “Rocket’s Rescue Run,” it’s the first title in a collaboration between Marvel and Disney and Audi’s new spin off venture Holoride, that aims to make VR entertainment a mainstay in cars of the future.

As the e-tron’s driver steps on the accelerator, in my alternate universe my ship surges through space. I’m joined by my sidekick Rocket Raccoon, and together we team up to help Iron Man take down a mob of Thanos’ space goons.

I’ve had many VR experiences before, but none like this. As soon as the SUV pulls away, the whole experience makes perfect sense. Every twist, every sharp turn, every bit of acceleration or sudden brake is matched by the same sensation in the game. For the entire 5-minute ride, my body is tricked into believing this reality. Not an easy feat for an utterly nitpicky tech journalist, I can only begin to imagine how big of a technical challenge it was to pull off.

I wield my laser gun like a pro, take down an evil mothership, and celebrate our victory with fireworks. The experience ends, and the e-tron stops. Reluctantly, I take off my headset. It feels like I’ve just been on a theme park ride, but from the privacy of my own car — well, not really, but I wish — and without standing in an hour-long line. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that during my adventure the e-tron reached speeds of up to 90mph. We’ve navigated plenty of sharp turns, too, but I don’t feel so woozy.

Supposedly matching the car’s movements to the virtual reality experience helps in mitigating nausea. As I get out, I thank my driver, but also can’t help but imagine a world that’s driver-optional.

At CES, we saw Audi’s vision of the future, a concept car called the Aicon, with an interior that resembles more of a lounge than a current automobile. As with Holoride, the development of Aicon represents a shift in the idea of mobility, one that’s ushered in by a focus on passengers instead of drivers. Together, Aicon and Holoride make perfect sense in a future world of fully autonomous vehicles. If no one is driving, what else are we to do?

Anything you want to, apparently. Cars are now seen as multi-purpose spaces, just another room that we occupy as we travel from place to place: be it a relaxation pod, a meeting room, or your own private cinema.

The team behind Holoride is most invested in the latter, creating entertainment experiences that are just long enough to fill the entire duration of your trip. They’re calling it “elastic content,” VR games and adventures that automatically adjust to congestion and shortcuts, so that you’re never left without something to occupy you.

Together, Aicon and Holoride make perfect sense in a future world of fully autonomous vehicles.”

Soon, Holoride plans to open its technology to more car manufacturers, content creators, and game developers. The goal is for a wide range of immersive experiences, customized to events in the real world like traffic jams or stop lights, and for those experiences to be available in more car brands. Apart from games, like the one I played, the company is also planning movies, interactive features, and educational tours. Indeed, the type of content you could enjoy is limited only by the imagination.

A few minutes later, I find myself getting another back massage inside another chauffeured Audi A8, making our way back into downtown Las Vegas. These days, when I do travel by car, the experience is similar to this, albeit less fancy. I’m bored, maybe antsy or impatient, in the back seat, with only my phone and social media to distract me. I hadn’t given it much thought till today, but in a world where one constantly thirsts for something to capture one’s attention, I can certainly see how “content will be a major driving force for the mobility experience of the future.”

The day is almost over and I am exhausted. I recline my chair, close my eyes, and enjoy the back massage for a few minutes more. I dream I am back in the e-tron, and wonder when this future will arrive, what it would be like if the next Avengers movie was interactive, and most importantly, what it would be like to watch it from the back seat of a fully autonomous Audi.

Automotive

Audi shows off its empathetic car at CES 2020

It’s concerned about the passenger’s well-being

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For people who drive or commute in the city, traffic jams, crowded streets, and other eyesores can add to the stress we already have. It’s an unavoidable lifestyle every time we’re on the road and is something we wish we had a solution to. Audi, at the CES 2020, seems to have the answer to this with the revelation of their concept car, the Audi AI:ME.

Described as an empathetic car, the fully automated Audi AI:ME represents a personal “third living space,” alongside our homes and workplaces, this self-driving vehicle is sure to pamper its passengers through the use of the latest automotive AI technologies.

So how can a car be empathetic? For starters, by recognizing its users and their habits, it will combine artificial intelligence to increase the passengers’ safety, well being, and comfort.

You can communicate with the car intuitively and even have it order your favorite food or enjoy a wellness experience with a pair of VR goggles that will allow passengers to change the environment in real-time together with the movement of the vehicle.

Upon arriving at your destination, you will find that your ordered food was delivered on time thanks to the AI navigation coordinated by the car’s navigation data. In the future, the car will also conduct a precise analysis as to the functions and settings that its user prefers, ranging from the seat position, media, route guidance, and temperature to the fragrancing of the interior.

Audi has also introduced, along with this vehicle, a 3D heads up display that works like a 3D television. Developed in cooperation with Samsung, Images generated for the left and right eye will give you a true 3D image. You will be able to see vital information, like navigation arrows as if they were floating in front of you at a distance of 8-10 meters and can even be increased to 70 meters. Your eyes will no longer have to refocus looking at the instrument cluster.

Should the driver get tired, different ambient lighting will provide a remedy from blue to cool white light which can have a stimulating and invigorating effect on the driver.  Audi calls this the Human-Centric Lighting.

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Nissan shows off Ariya concept, zero-emission ice cream van at CES

There’s even a self-sinking golf ball!

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Apart from other car brands strutting their newest offerings, Nissan is also in full swing over at the ongoing CES 2020 in Las Vegas. Their booth showcases things that first and foremost promote sustainability with technologies that are soon within reach.

To further show what these features can do, the company has taken their technologies and developed new, creative uses for them. These are then available to experience at Nissan’s booth. Check them out:

Nissan Ariya concept: The crossover vehicle is making its North American debut and brings together advanced technologies on an all-new EV platform. It carries the Nissan Intelligent Mobility suite that we’re pretty familiar with along with an expansive lineup of innovative features.

Technology experts will give demonstrations of Ariya Concept features such as the ProPILOT 2.0 advanced driver assistance system, twin-motor all-
wheel-control system, acoustic meta-material, and Smart Route Planner.

Nissan’s zero-emission ice cream van: Chill out with ice cream served from a concept van that combines an all-electric drivetrain, second-life battery storage, and renewable solar energy generation. Based on the 100% electric e-NV200 light commercial vehicle, the ice cream van’s motor is driven by a 40-kilowatt-hour battery. A portable power pack, which uses lithium-ion cells recovered from early first-generation Nissan electric vehicles, powers the on-board equipment.

Nissan’s booth at CES with its interactive displays

The ProPILOT golf ball: Inspired by the ProPILOT 2.0 advanced driver assistance system, Nissan has created a golf ball that always manages to find the hole. At the booth’s putting green, an overhead camera will detect the position of the golf ball and hole. Sensing technology and an internal electric motor will ensure the putt stays on course until reaching the cup – just as Nissan cars equipped with ProPILOT 2.0 can maneuver along a predefined highway route.

Power Selfie: CES visitors won’t be able to drive the Formula E race car on display at Nissan’s booth, but they can recreate the exhilarating experience. With the help of high-powered fans and special effects, the Power Selfie booth records a short video to mimic the acceleration of the 100% electric race car from 0 to 100 kph in a mere 2.8 seconds. Guests will be able to create a GIF that looks as if they’re racing down the track.

Formula E race car: Nissan, the first Japanese carmaker to join the all-electric Formula E street racing championship, will show its new, Japan-inspired livery for the new season.

The Nissan LEAF e+: Nissan LEAF e+ electric vehicle features a powerful motor, long-range, advanced technologies including the ProPILOT driver assistance system (called ProPILOT Assist in the U.S. marketplace), and the innovative e-Pedal mode for one-pedal driving.

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Automotive

Why did Sony surprisingly flex an electric vehicle at CES?

Sony got everyone’s attention

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You’ve probably heard the news about Sony introducing a brand spanking new electric car during the last few minutes of its CES 2020 presentation. Called the Vision-S, it caught a lot of the audience off-guard and it was completely understandable. After all, why would a company that focuses on televisions and other consumer electronics suddenly bring up a prototype vehicle on stage?

Well, according to Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, this announcement embodies Sony’s contribution to the future of mobility.

The company envisions a future where vehicles will no longer be simply modes of transportation but also an entertainment pod for its passengers. And when it comes to entertainment, we know that Sony is committed to delivering quality products so they’re looking forward to offering the same enjoyable components with the Vision-S concept car.

Step inside and you’ll see what the company simply means. The interior is equipped with a display that spans the entirety of its dashboard. This acts as your control panel for making calls, accessing your media library, navigation, and many more. Sony says it’s also been fitted with 360-degree audio through headrest speakers, always-on connectivity, and even touch displays for the rear passengers.

Using their years of experience with camera optics, the Vision-S has 33 different sensors mounted both inside and outside of the sedan that aid in driving. Additionally, the car was said to be powered by a newly designed EV platform which other reports have suggested that automotive supplier Magna has put together.

As with other concept cars, the Vision-S is not meant to be mass-produced, at least now right now. This is just what Sony has in mind for the next generation of vehicles by using their expertise in these fields — call it their Vision, if you will.

Also, by announcing this electric car, the company had CES 2020 shaken. Good one, Sony.

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