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

BMW reveals the new F 750 GS, F 850 GS, and F 850 GS Adventure

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New colorways are here!

BMW Motorrad released the first GS in 1980. The year 2020 marks the GS line’s 40th anniversary and to make the occasion a little more festive than it already is, three of their mid-size models are getting the upgrades they so deserve. New paint jobs are also on the table, including a black and gold combination with yellow accents.

General changes to the three GS models include new tape designs and the respective style designation on the fairing side panels of the style variations. All models now have new LED flashing turn indicators as standard and a USB charging device at the front right of the cockpit. ABS Pro and DTC (Dynamic Traction Control) are now also standard, for even more braking and accelerating safety.

So what’s new in the 40th-anniversary editions? Let’s do a quick run-through.

BMW F 750 GS

The BMW F750 GS now comes in a classic white with the tank cover painted in the same hue. You also get matte black rims and handlebars. The seat comes in black and red to provide an exciting contrast. There’s also the San Marino Blue metallic colorway which gives you a tinted windscreen with sporty accents, rims in metallic granite grey, silver handlebars, a black and grey seat, and a galvanized radiator grille.

The special edition for the 40th anniversary meanwhile gets a “40 Years GS” lettering on the side panels, yellow hand guards, and a black and yellow seat with GS lettering. It unmistakably pays homage to the icon from 40 years of GS history: the BMW R 100 GS. The rims are painted in matte black, while the handlebars are silver with a galvanized radiator grille.

BMW F 850 GS

This model comes in a new Racing Red colorway that provides great contrast to the black rims, fork tubes, and seat. The Rallye option comes in Racing Blue Metallic with gold rims, black fork tubes, and a galvanized grille.

Its anniversary edition is in Black Storm metallic and features the anniversary logo. You also get yellow hand guards, gold rims, and a seat that comes in a black and yellow color combo. A GS logo is also printed on the fork tubes while the galvanized grille comes in silver.

The F 850 GS will also get additional upgrades in the form of the new windscreen adjustment mechanism as well as a TFT display including convenient connectivity functions.

BMW F 850 GS Adventure

This model comes in Ice Grey but what caught our attention is definitely the Rallye style. Together with gold-colored rims and fork stand tubes, the new BMW F 850 GS Adventure looks both dynamic and elegant. The Sport windscreen and a rally seat upholstered in black or grey with a seat height of 890 mm reinforce the sporting appearance of this particular model.

The new BMW F 850 GS Adventure also has a dedicated version to the anniversary of the BMW GS models as the “Edition 40 Years GS”. Prominent features of the anniversary GS painted in Blackstorm metallic are the “40 Years GS” lettering and yellow hand protectors. Black-coated fork standpipes, gold rims, and a black and yellow double seat bench with 860 mm seat height. Like the 850 GS, it also gets a TFT display with convenient connectivity functions as part of the standard equipment on board.

More options for your next adventure

The new GS models feature new components of the Pro riding modes optional equipment. This means that as in the GS models with boxer engines, a reworked throttle response in dynamic riding mode now ensures even more dynamics and driving enjoyment.

Furthermore, dynamic engine brake control and Dynamic Brake Control (DBC) now feature in Pro riding modes. Other new Pro riding mode features include the preselection of up to four riding modes for the button assignment on the right handlebar controls. Although this is only in conjunction with the Connectivity optional equipment in the BMW F 750 GS.

You can also opt for an extra low seat bench as well as modified lowered suspension. These will be available as optional equipment for all three models in the future, ensuring even better ground accessibility when stationary.

Since completely switching off the ABS will no longer be permissible under legal homologation regulations in future, the Enduro and Enduro Pro riding modes will provide adapted controls for this purpose. The ABS function can still be switched off on the rear wheel in Enduro Pro riding mode on the BMW F 850 GS and BMW F 850 GS Adventure.

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Accessories

Xiaomi adds Electric Scooter Pro 2, Smart Band 5, TV stick to IoT lineup

More Xiaomi devices and accessories to choose from!

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By now, people are familiar with the fact that Xiaomi has an expansive portfolio of products. That portfolio is getting some new, exciting additions — namely the Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2, the Mi Smart Band 5, and Mi TV Stick.

Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2

This product is targeting a very particular need. Too long to walk but not far enough for a drive? That’s where this mobility tool comes in.

The Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2 can travel up to 45km, at speeds up to 25 km per hour. It can effortlessly climb 20 percent incline slopes and accommodate a week’s worth of trips on a single charge.

It has a built-in LCD where riders can view and control different things. You can check real-time speed, choose a riding mode, connect to Bluetooth, and monitor headline status.

It has a 300W motor, a double braking system, shock-absorbing pneumatic tires, and an easy folding design so you can pretty much take it wherever you go.

If you’re a first-time user, you will receive safety reminders and tips through your mobile device. Speaking of safety, it sports front, rear, and side reflectors as well as a 2W headlight that can illuminate up to 10 meters ahead. All for the sake of better visibility.

Launched alongside it  is the Mi Electric Scooter 1S. It’s a more streamlined model for casual commuters. It can travel up to 30 km at speeds up to 25 km per hour and offers an upgraded display, headlight, and other safety features.

Mi Smart Band 5

We’ve discussed this in more detail when it was first announced, and this is essentially the global version.

But here are the basics you need to know: it has a 1.1” color AMOLED display with 20% more screen than its predecessor and has over 65 dynamic displays and six band colors.

On the functionalities side, it has most of what you can expect from a fitness band. It has a variety of workouts and trackers all so you can monitor your health and wellness better. The international suggested retail price is EUR 39.99. 

Mi TV Stick 

Turn your dumb UHD TV into a smart one! If you’ve been yearning for a Smart TV but don’t have the budget for one. Your next best option is to get the Mi TV Stick. Provided your TV has an HDMI port.

Powered by Android TV with DTS surround sound, Google Assistant, and Chromecast — it’s your ticket to a relaxing Netflix and Chill session.

Inside it has a quad-core CPU, 1GB RAM + 8GB storage. It comes with a Bluetooth remote control with dedicated buttons for Google Assistant, Netflx, and Prime video. It’s SRP is EUR 39.99. 

Mi TWS Earphones 2 Basic

Here’s something for your basic TWS fix. It promises up to 5 hours of uninterrupted use from a full charge. Total battery life hits the 20-hour mark thanks to the included charging case.

As for functionality, again, anything you expect from TWS, you’ll likely find here. Sound is adequate, pairing should be easy, and there’s some level of environmental noise cancellation for your convenience.

Suggested retail price is also EUR 39.99.

Pricing and availability in other markets will be revealed once they become available.

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Automotive

Nissan Ariya ushers a new chapter for the company

It’s an All-electric Crossover SUV

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Nissan has been heavily marketing their EV efforts. The company is taking things to the next phase with the introduction of the Nissan Ariya. It’s their first all-electric Crossover SUV complete with smart functionalities.

The Nissan Ariya represents the company’s design transformation which also includes the unveiling of a new logo. It also takes the powerful performance and capabilities of zero-emission vehicles to a new level.

Its all-electric drivetrain combines excellent power delivery, charging capabilities and range. There are different configurations to choose from. These include two-wheel-drive and e-4ORCE all-wheel-drive versions, as well as two different battery sizes.

The e-4ORCE all-wheel control system balances performance with all-weather capability. The system’s twin electric motors provide a balanced, predictable ride, while delivering sports car-level power.

Tech-ladden smart car

The Nissan Ariya is equipped with tech to help you If you’re pretty challenged behind the wheel . It has the ProPILOT 2.0 which is an advanced driver assistance system. It comes with ProPILOT Remote Park and e-Pedal features.

The Ariya also has Nissan’s Safety Shield system which includes Intelligent Around View Monitor, Intelligent Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Emergency Braking and Rear Automatic Emergency Braking technology.

The Ariya is accompanied by Amazon’s Alexa. Couple that with its all-new human-machine interface, it lets customers use natural speech to adjust car settings. Worried about updates? The car’s firmware can all be updated over-the-air (OTA) so keeping it up-to-date should be a breeze.

Subtle, futuristic interior

The exterior design isn’t the only thing that was given a fresh look. The Nissan Ariya has an interior who’s design language follows that of “Timeless Japanese Futurism.”

Nissan’s designers took advantage of the car’s new EV platform. It allows for a flat floor and its compact climate control components give the Ariya the most spacious cabin in its class.

The lounge-like interior features Zero Gravity seat and provides a welcoming and comfortable environment for driver and passengers alike.

New car, new logo

Debuting on the Nissan Ariya is Nissan’s new logo. The company says it symbolizes the company’s dedication to keep innovating for new generations of customers.

The company name remains at the center of the logo. This should communicate an instantly recognizable brand that evokes past milestones and memories while also conveying evolution.

Moving forward, it will appear in coming Nissan models as they’re introduced or refreshed.

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