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“We can turn the car into a spaceship”

At the CES, Audi presented a virtual reality option that makes viewing films and playing video games more realistic than ever. Nils Wollny, Head of Digital Business at Audi, talks about the details.

Interview with Nils Wollny, Head of Digital Business at Audi

Are we there yet? What about now? Well, when will we get there? Many parents are familiar with these questions, and they know that there is no answer that will satisfy a child. If only there were a way to make car trips more comfortable, entertaining and just more fun overall. Actually, that is possible, says Wollny.

Mr. Wollny, at the CES you said that you are creating the first medium that is perfectly adapted to the automobile. What does that mean?

We’re putting an end to the purely linear interaction format of the car. And we’re doing this with virtual experiences that are more realistic than ever before. For example, we can turn the car into a spaceship – using virtual reality. During the drive, virtual content is adapted to the car’s movements in real time. If the car makes a right turn, the spaceship turns to the right in the virtual world as well. When the driver speeds up, the spaceship’s flight through the galaxy is getting faster as well. Using physical feedback from the actual drive system makes the virtual experience feel unbelievably realistic and intense.

So, an experience for all the senses?

In addition to the usual response of visual and acoustic senses, the natural g-forces in particular are now integrated into the experience. We are making it possible to take a perfectly motion-synchronized trip through virtual worlds. This will transform a simple route from A to B into an adventure.

How does that work?

We drew on algorithms for autonomous driving and used relevant data points that give us information on the position, speed and steering as well as about braking and acceleration behavior. On top of that, the system can evaluate data from the navigation system and use it to, for example, adjust the length of a game to match the estimated travel time. That’s why we call this new entertainment format “Elastic Content”.

When can customers take advantage of this offer?

This new entertainment segment can only be developed together – with an open approach for vehicle, device and content producers. Therefore, Audi co-founded the Munich-based start-up holoride, which will further develop and commercialize this new form of entertainment via an open platform. We plan to launch the back-seat passenger application within the next three years.

What formats can customers look forward to seeing?

From interactive experiences like games to more explorative formats like a historical city tour, everything is possible. With the further expansion of the Car-to-X infrastructure, unexpected digital obstacles could also arise if the car stops at a traffic light, for example. The possible applications are almost unlimited.

Many people get queasy in a car, even if they are only reading. Does that apply here?

The reason you get sick to your stomach while reading or looking at your phone in the car is because your sensory perceptions get all mixed up. Your eyes register no movement, but the fluid in your ear that controls your sense of equilibrium follows the movements of the car and sends those signals to your brain. But virtual reality applications produce a synchronized visual and sensory experience, so passengers won’t feel a lot less nausea.

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Volkswagen Group Media Services

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