June release confirmed for first Audi vehicles with holoride VR platform
Audi has revealed that the VR tech for back-seat passengers demonstrated at CES 2019 will roll out to select vehicles from June. The holoride platform can adapt content to the car's movement during a journey, transforming a boring commute into a rolling virtual theme park.
The technology was developed by engineers at Audi Electronics Venture GmbH and subsequently spun-out into a company called holoride. It taps into motion and location data from vehicle sensors and adapts the content in a VR world seen through a Bluetooth-connected headset to add a new level of immersion dubbed elastic content.
So, instead of bored passengers having to look at rolling countryside or sprawling cityscapes as they're driven from A to B, they can instead be transported to the bridge of a spaceship navigating an asteroid field that turns, speeds up or brakes when the car does. Or if the route is particularly twisty, those in the back seat could ride a virtual rollercoaster instead.
However, since the experience is informed by the vehicle's movements, the platform also supports VR gaming and immersive movie content for those long stretches of straight highway where motion-synchronized content isn't needed.
Certain vehicles produced from June and rocking the latest version of Audi's modular infotainment toolkit will be holoride-capable – which translates to Audi A4, A5, A6, A7, A8, Q5, Q7, Q8, e-tron and e-tron GT quattro models – and the rollout will start with Germany, the UK and the US, with other markets following later.
Users will also need to don wireless VR headsets to jump aboard the holoride experience, which will presumably cost extra. And the headset of choice for the system follows a partnership agreement with HTC Vive announced at Mobile World Congress 2022 last month, and will be the HTC Vive Flow.
This goggle-like device features two 2.1-inch LCD displays at 1,600 x 1,600 resolution per eye with a refresh rate of 75 Hz and up to 100-degree field of view, 6DoF tracking cameras, built-in spatial audio on the arms, dual microphones to the front, and an internal fan that draws heat away from the wearer's face.
While designed for backseat passengers, Audi sees an autonomous driving future opening up the virtual experience to all occupants, allowing drivers to work, learn or be entertained while on the road. And synchronizing the virtual worlds with the vehicle's movements could also help reduce nausea during travel for those who suffer from it.
The vehicle integration announcement was made at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, which runs until March 20. There doesn't seem to be any official video footage of the latest iteration of the technology from SXSW itself, so have a look at the demo from the 2019 launch to see the kind of experiences on offer.