Is this the future of in-car entertainment?

As automakers continue to sharpen their technological prowess for autonomous convenience and the latest infotainment goodies, Audi is looking beyond, and has announced it will take steps towards the creation of something a bit unexpected - virtual reality in-car entertainment.

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

Audi Joins The Avengers For Virtual Reality Adventure at CES 2019
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You’re skipping between star systems, when all of a sudden, your starboard flank is lit up like a Christmas tree thanks to some deadly alien laser beams. You return fire, zooming around debris as the foes give chase…

Sounds like fun, eh? Well, that’s exactly what some lucky CES attendees will get to experience at the Audi booth this year.

That’s because the premium German automaker is showing off its latest entertainment platform, which mates virtual reality headsets with live vehicle movements to entertain those bold enough to climb in the passenger seat.

Those who choose to do so will get a chance to join the ranks of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and together with the wisecracking Rocket, they’ll hitch a ride on a star fighter as they navigate through an asteroid field.

Audi Joins The Avengers For Virtual Reality Adventure at CES 2019
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Built in conjunction with holoride, a start-up seeking to build a new open platform entertainment category, the experience acts as a showcase for “Marvel’s Avengers: Rocket’s Rescue Run”, a prototype experience developed with Disney Games and Interactive Experiences. holoride was co-founded by Audi Electronics Venture GmbH, and as such, it looks as though the brand is starting to branch out in unexpected directions.

Automakers Dishing Out The Content?

Audi Joins The Avengers For Virtual Reality Adventure at CES 2019
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Audi says this new virtual reality platform will be available to all automakers and content developers sometime in the future. We could definitely see this kind of thing headed to Disneyland as an attraction, but how about putting the attraction right in the car?

It’s an interesting prospect.

After all, not only are carmakers now becoming technology companies, but now it looks like Audi wants to become an entertainment company as well.

“Creative minds will use our platform to come up with fascinating worlds that turn the journey from A to B into a real adventure,” explains Nils Wollny, the head of Digital Business at Audi, and the future CEO of holoride. “We can only develop this new entertainment segment by adopting a cooperative, open approach for vehicle, device, and content producers.”

Audi’s vision is that the technology will be put to use as “arcade games, underwater adventures and space exploration, to educational trips through historical cities or the human bloodstream.” Indeed, by synching the car’s movements with onscreen action, the experience can be extremely immersive. What’s more, Audi contends that the nature of virtual reality goggles helps to combat motion sickness (although we have a few misgivings about that claim).

Audi Joins The Avengers For Virtual Reality Adventure at CES 2019
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Nevertheless, the opportunity for creating something powerful is definitely there. What’s more, holoride will offer an open developer kit, which means we could be seeing this kind of thing implemented in the real world before we know it. In fact, Audi suggests we could be seeing standard VR glasses for backseat passengers in as little as three years.

Audi declined to say exactly how the technology works, but did say the tech will actively interface with the car for in-vehicle responses in real time.

That is, if the car turns left in real life, the “virtual spaceship” will turn left as well.

Audi also expects the technology to interface with the broader car-to-x infrastructure, for example, introducing a new puzzle in a game when the car stops at a red light.

This definitely opens up a swath of new possibilities for in-car entertainment. I remember when in-car screens were first filtering onto the scene, and this seems like the natural evolution of that technology.

What do you want to see this tech used for? Let us know in the comments section below.

Further Reading

2019 Audi E-tron Quattro Exterior Interior
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Read our full review on the 2019 Audi E-Tron Quattro.

Note: all images courtesy of Audi.

Audi is redefining in-car entertainment at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. In the future, backseat passengers will be able to experience movies, video games, and interactive content even more realistically using virtual reality glasses. The premium brand is presenting a technology that adopts virtual content to the movements of a vehicle in real time: If the car drives through a right turn, the spaceship in the experience does the same, for example. Through a subsidiary, Audi Electronics Venture GmbH, Audi has co-founded a start-up company, holoride GmbH, which will commercialize this new form of entertainment via an open platform that will be made available to all carmakers and content developers in the future.

Audi is demonstrating the immersive futuristic technology with “Marvel’s Avengers: Rocket’s Rescue Run,” an in-car VR experience for backseat passengers being brought to life by Disney Games and Interactive Experiences. Wearing VR glasses, the passenger in an Audi e-tron (combined electric power consumption in kWh/100 km (62.1 mi)*: 26.2 –22.5 (WLTP); 24.6 - 23.7 (NEFZ); combined CO2 emissions in g/km (g/mi): 0) is transported into a fantastical depiction of outer space: The Audi e-tron now functions as the ship manned by the Guardians of the Galaxy, as the passenger makes their way through an asteroid field together with Rocket, a character that will appear in Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame in spring 2019. Every movement of the car is reflected in the experience in real time. If the car turns a tight corner, the player curves around an opposing spaceship in virtual reality. If the Audi e-tron accelerates, the ship in the experience does the same.

In order to establish this new category of entertainment on the market as quickly and comprehensively as possible, Audi is taking a new approach: The premium brand has co-founded a start-up named holoride, in which it holds a minority interest through the subsidiary Audi Electronics Venture GmbH, which developed the technology. Furthermore, Audi will license the technology to holoride. The start-up will use an open platform to allow carmakers and content developers to create and offer additional extended reality formats. “Creative minds will use our platform to come up with fascinating worlds that turn the journey from A to B into a real adventure,” said Nils Wollny, head of Digital Business at Audi, and future CEO of holoride. “We can only develop this new entertainment segment by adopting a cooperative, open approach for vehicle, device and content producers.”

From arcade games, underwater adventures and space exploration to educational trips through historical cities or the human bloodstream, there are almost no limits to what is possible. holoride will provide a software development kit that serves as the interface to the vehicle data and transfers those into virtual realities, allowing developers to create worlds that can be experienced in-car with all of the senses. Since the visual experience and the user’s actual perception are synchronized, conventional movies, series or presentations can also be viewed with a significantly reduced chance of motion sickness.

holoride intends to launch the new form of entertainment on the market within the next three years using standard VR glasses for backseat passengers. In the long term, the continued expansion of car-to-X infrastructure could also see traffic events becoming a part of the experience: Stopping at traffic lights could introduce unexpected obstacles to a game or interrupt a learning program with a quick quiz.

Audi and Marvel Studios have been teaming up since the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, beginning with the appearance of the Audi R8 in Iron Man (2008). Drawing upon this longstanding relationship, Audi and Disney Games and Interactive Experiences together created “Marvel’s Avengers: Rocket’s Rescue Run,” to demonstrate how a backseat passenger can enjoy their journey even more using the most innovative VR technology. “Audi, Marvel and Disney Games and Interactive Experiences are celebrating Marvel Studios’ 10th anniversary with an Avengers experience that combines world class content and innovative technology,” said Mike Goslin, Vice President, Disney Games and Interactive Experiences. “While this CES demo was developed purely in the spirit of exploration and experimentation, we are constantly evaluating emerging technologies to enhance our stories and experiences.”

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