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Holography in the GTI

Fast, loud and lit-up! At the GTI gathering at Wörthersee, Volkswagen will be presenting a one-off concept car that is sure to make an impact over the din of the crowd and impress those assembled with spectacular hologram technology: the Golf GTI Aurora¹.

One-off concept car for the 2019 GTI gathering in Wörthersee: the Golf GTI Aurora. A total of 18 apprentices designed and built the showcar over several months

With the Aurora showcar, apprentices from Wolfsburg, assisted by the innovation development team at Volkswagen Group Components, created a 3,000-watt boom box whose imposing sound system is controlled by way of a spectacular hologram. 

The model name says it all with the Golf GTI Aurora: “Aurora borealis is the name of the greenish apparitions of the northern lights, which inspired us with the design, color and technology,” explains Lorenzo Canu. Canu is the spokesperson for the Wolfsburg apprentice team that built the one-off concept car in only eight months. A glance at the luggage compartment quite literally lights up the eyes of the beholder: the highlight is a holographic control unit for the sound system, a playful light show with a touch of whimsy.

This hologram can be used to control the 3,000-watt sound system with simple hand gestures. You simply press the start, stop and pause buttons floating in space. You use your fingertips to select an album from floating, animated playlists in the form of cubes. You adjust the volume by way of a volume control projected in the air. And it all functions intuitively, just as with a stereo system or a Walkman. Users understand immediately how the operating concept works even if they have never used hologram technology before. And yet they don’t actually touch anything.

Technologies from the realm of Star Wars and Star Trek

View of the luggage compartment of the Golf GTI Aurora: the playlists float above the holography module. Users select the desired genre and album with the tip of their finger. Control of the hologram is self-explanatory and intuitive

“With our hologram, we’ve managed to unite the real and virtual worlds,” says Carsten Busse, head of Innovation Development at Volkswagen Group Components. “Almost everyone knows holograms from Hollywood films like Star Trek and Star Wars – and this is very close to that cinematic reality.” But unlike the three-dimensional experiences one knows from the movies, with the Aurora there’s no need for 3D glasses, special sensor gloves, or joysticks. “It’s like a kind of mirage that one can very clearly see and influence. We use that for a completely new operating experience. The hologram floats freely in space, above the hardware that is installed in a module in the luggage compartment,” explains the developer.

Exactly how it works technically is a well-kept trade secret. Yet Carsten Busse and his employees Karsten Rowold, head of the Future Development team, and team member Michael Hirsch, are willing to reveal a couple of details: “We create a floating image using software algorithms and visual technology modules The system independently recognizes the user’s operating wishes and implements them – creating an intuitive and natural-feeling control function,” explains Carsten Busse, adding: “It is our own, patented technology.”

Floating volume controller – flying playlists

Holography is a technology that every user can master within a matter of seconds after just a few hand motions. Holograms are, after all – at least when they are so well implemented as in the Golf GTI Aurora – intuitive to operate. Humans see and live in three dimensions and thus know how to deal with the projected 3D controls. This quickly brings about an interaction that feels very natural. It’s a big contrast to the simple pressing of buttons shown on a display. 

Even when it comes to the interior design concepts of the future, holography opens up new possibilities for developers and designers. “The hologram is there when I need it. And when I don’t need it, I can use that space,” explains Carsten Busse. The technology can therefore result in a very tidy interior – or the designers can use the hardware to project design elements that customize the interior space.

Interaction through holography

Colorful and visually spectacular: while music is being played, the holography module projects a three-dimensional equalizer in the air. On its right: the volume control

“The whole automotive industry is also feverishly considering the question of what people will do with their free time in self-driving cars. As developers, we provide the technological framework with many interesting possible applications.” In contrast to mobile phones and tablets, which most passengers look at during the drive nowadays, the hologram is a technology that brings people together. “With the cell phone, we talk about a point-to-point connection,” explains Karsten Rowold. “Our hologram technology, by contrast, offers more opportunities for interaction. I can interact with real-looking holograms and also communicate with my passengers through them. And all that without 3D glasses, in open space.”

This spatial freedom of the interactive functionality in the Golf GTI Aurora very quickly becomes clear because the hologram module is not permanently installed. “We can completely remove the module in a couple of simple steps and set it up next to the vehicle,” says apprentice spokesperson Lorenzo Canu. There it can be used as a DJ console through which the vehicle’s sound system is controlled. No doubt every fan at the Wörthersee gathering will want to try their hand at it!

Yet it’s important to the innovation developers from Volkswagen Group Components to emphasize that, in spite of its playful spirit, the holographic control unit in the Golf GTI Aurora is not just a plaything. “The holography system can be implemented with technology modules that are available today, so it’s not science fiction,” says Carsten Busse. “We strove to achieve a realistic implementation that is affordable, robust and suitable for cars. And one that provides customers with a new experience.” When can we expect it? While it is certain that the holographic technology will not yet be available as an optional extra in the coming year – it certainly won’t be a decade before its time comes.

  • Facts about the Golf GTI Aurora¹

    Impossible to overlook: The Golf GTI Aurora

    A total of 18 apprentices, eight months for planning and construction: with the Golf GTI Aurora, the Wörthersee 2019 apprentice team from the Wolfsburg plant has created the twelfth car in the Wörthersee project series. The basis was a Golf GTI TCR2 from the pre-production series.

    The Aurora is powered by a 2.0-l gasoline engine with an output of 279 kW (380 hp) – a hefty 100 hp more than the series vehicle, which is made possible by a bigger charger, a modified intake system and a modified exhaust system. The GTI one-off is painted in the colors Nardo Gray and Deep Black Pearl Effect (in the rear), as well as the one-off accent color Mint Green. The bodykit with rear diffuser and all the decorative elements in semi-honeycomb style were painted by hand. 

    The interior boasts a vast array of sporty new features never before seen in this combination. One example is an additional display in the center console, which shows vehicle data that is particularly important in race mode. And the steering wheel not only features a shift display of the type familiar from super sports cars, but the exhaust flap can also be operated with a flick of the finger – for a quick switch to the acoustic racing mode.

Fuel consumption 

1 Study / Concept car
2 Golf GTI TCR: Fuel consumption, l/100 km: urban 8.3 / motorway 5.8 – 5.7 / combined 6.7; CO2 emissions combined, g/km: 153 – 151; efficiency class: D