When it comes to innovation in the auto industry, there are quite a few technologies out there that show huge potential. One of those is augmented reality, whereby digital forms overlay the real world to create an enhanced perspective to serve a specific purpose. One new player in this space is Mini, which will bring its “Augmented Vision” concept to the Auto Shanghai show later this month, offering a new high-tech way to navigate, communicate, park, and stay safe. 

“Mini Augmented Vision gives an insight into how intelligent connectivity between a Mini car and eyewear into which relevant content is projected might work in the future,” says Dr. Jörg Preißinger, project-manager at BMW Group research and technology, in a press release. “Working with several Qualcomm companies, we have created an interlinked system and augmented reality eyewear with a characteristic Mini design that revolutionize the experience both in and outside the vehicle.”

Both customizable and interactive, the AR eyewear projects images and information into the driver’s view while keeping other cars and road elements visible. Features include directions when looking for your car in a crowded parking lot, navigation arrows “on” the road leading to your intended destination, highlighted points of interest (such as open parking spaces), vehicle speed and posted speed limits, audible text messaging, “transparent” body panels that eliminate blind spots, and parking cameras. 

With this new concept, Mini joins the ranks of several other companies in exploring the possibilities of augmented reality for automotive purposes. JLR, for example, has proposed the idea of transparent body panels before, while Pioneer proposed AR navigation concepts as early as 2011. 

Continue reading to learn more about Mini’s augmented vision eyewear.

Why it matters

Augmented reality is a technology that is just too good to ignore. The potential benefits it holds for the car industry are substantial and varied, and it appears as though Mini is putting most of the big ones together into a single cohesive package. 

And while it does take more than a concept to actually bring this stuff to consumers, I believe it’s just a matter of time before we see AR in production cars.

However, I say that with a single caveat – with the rate at which fully-autonomous vehicle technology seems to be progressing, AR may not have a chance to make its entry into the market, at least not in the form we’re seeing from Mini. If human drivers are phased out, AR in cars will probably just be an extension of AR in the rest of the world, with entertainment and information presentation as the main goals, rather than navigation and safety. 

Mini Cooper

2014 Mini Cooper High Resolution Exterior
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Late last year, Mini announced it would be reducing the number of models it offered to just five, including the three- and five-door Cooper.

Read our full review here.

Press Release

MINI is revealing the shape of things to come at the Auto Shanghai show with a pioneering innovation. “MINI Augmented Vision gives an insight into how intelligent connectivity between a MINI car and eyewear into which relevant content is projected might work in the future,” explains Dr. Jörg Preißinger, project-manager MINI Augmented Vision, BMW Group research and technology. “Working with several Qualcomm companies, we have created an interlinked system and augmented reality eyewear with a characteristic MINI design that revolutionise the experience both in and outside the vehicle. This prototype with its customised, interactive functions succeeds in fusing augmented reality with the brand’s trademark sense of lifestyle.”

Using see-through technology, the AR eyewear shows relevant information in the driver’s direct field of vision but without concealing other road users, thereby serving to increase safety and comfort while driving.

The following functions will be projected into the field of view with MINI Augmented Vision:

Destination entry for navigation and transfer to vehicle: Selecting destination points when outside the vehicle, then transferring them to the vehicle.
First Mile / Last Mile: Navigation display from the current location to the vehicle or from the vehicle to the final destination.
Head-up display functions: Display of speed, speed limits etc. in the eyewear so the information is in the driver’s primary field of view, with data always shown in same place above steering wheel to make sure that no road users are concealed from sight.
Contact-analogue navigation and points of interest: Reality is enhanced by contact-analogue navigation arrows “on” the road, as well as display of points of interest along the route, such as open parking spaces. The driver´s attention can always stay focused on the traffic.
Messaging: A small icon is shown in the eyewear when a message is received. The SMS/message can then be read out by the car while driving for safety.
X-Ray View / transparent vehicle parts: A virtual view through parts of the vehicle (such as A-pillars and doors) serves to render external areas or objects concealed by the car visible.
Augmented Parking: This facilitates parking by projecting the images from a camera housed in the (farside) mirror into the eyewear. In this way, the distance from the curb can be clearly and easily ascertained.

Design and color-concept of the eyewear were created by Designworks for MINI.

MINI Augmented Vision has been developed in collaboration with several Qualcomm companies.

“We are proud to have helped develop a breakthrough augmented reality interface between eyewear and the automobile,” says Jay Wright, Vice President, Qualcomm Connected Experiences, Inc. “MINI Augmented Vision offers a compelling example of what’s possible today, and what we can expect in the future.”

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