By Jay Ward, Creative Director of Franchise, Pixar Animation Studios
There really isn’t a simple answer to that question because the presence of true Virtual Reality (VR) in a car might look more like a blend of VR and Augmented Reality (AR), resulting in Mixed Reality, or ‘MR’ as it’s better known.
Regardless, we’ll continue to see MR experiences expand in our vehicles as the level of autonomy grows. Quite simply, the less a driver needs to look at the road in order to operate their car, the more they are able to focus on other things – meanwhile the systems in the car do more of the work that’s involved in actually driving.
Many cars, for example, already have active, automated systems at some level that can steer, accelerate and brake on the driver’s behalf while the car is in motion. This would have been technology wizardry a mere decade ago, but now you can easily see where all of this assistance is heading over the next few years.
Evolving automobile technology also now includes voice command, hand gestures and haptic feedback – all designed to keep our eyes on the road and our hands on the steering wheel as much as possible. As MR evolves, we could very well see 3D data appearing in front of us too, enabling us to more easily interact with systems in the car. Like having the ability to put your hand in front of you and virtually move things around – just like a scene in the movie ‘Minority Report’!
As long as a driver needs to physically be in a seat, looking forward while driving, with their hands (occasionally) on the steering wheel, we will continue to see interfaces that allow that driver to look forward, yet do other things at the same time.
So, you might ask, what’s the tipping point between MR technology in our cars being a distraction or an enhancement to what the driver is doing in the car? I think it happens when technology allows the driver to become complacent to the point of recklessness, as we’ve witnessed in some Tesla Auto Pilot accidents.
MR as Immersive Entertainment
MR in automobiles is also increasingly being viewed as an evolving form of immersive entertainment. As we move towards Level 4 autonomous cars in the near future, the driver will become more of a passenger than an active participant controlling the vehicle.
Now take vehicle cameras, projection and data systems both inside and around the car. They can capture the vehicle location, the physical environment, even the theme of a road trip, and use this data to make an interactive movie whereby passengers can be a part of the storytelling.
And how about the ability to darken all the vehicle windows and use them as wraparound video screens, so that the content you’re watching comes alive? Or, instead of just listening to music, you could be at a live concert, sitting in the front row, even surrounded by the musicians. Imagine an in-car experience that allows a virtual passenger, who is located thousands of miles away, to sit right next to you throughout your journey, keeping you company on the road? Each of these scenarios is quite possible as MR technology continues to evolve, and fully autonomous driving inches closer to becoming an everyday reality.
Now is the time for automobile manufacturers to determine how they want their unique brands to bring all of this technology to life. Each has the opportunity to integrate VR, AR, and MR in compelling ways for their vehicles – and define the future of the industry, and of entertainment, in the process.
Jay Ward will be speaking at SHIFT Automotive, which is taking place from 10-11 September 2019 in Berlin, in conjunction with IFA, the world’s leading trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances. To book your ticket or enquire about being an exhibitor visit: https://b2b.ifa-berlin.com/IFA/ConventionsConferences/Shiftautomotive/