Is the next frontier for virtual reality on the roadways?
At CES 2019, German automaker Audi is showing off a new in-car VR system, designed to let backseat passengers watch movies, play video games and experience interactive content using a virtual-reality headset. The interesting wrinkle: the VR content can respond to the movements of a vehicle in real time.
Audi is demonstrating the system in Las Vegas this week with “Marvel’s Avengers: Rocket’s Rescue Run,” a prototype VR game developed by Disney Games and Interactive Experiences, using an Oculus Rift VR headset outfitted in its Audio e-tron electric vehicles.
In “Marvel’s Avengers: Rocket’s Rescue Run,” passenger players are flying through an asteroid field together with Rocket — and the Audio e-tron becomes the virtual embodiment of the Guardians of the Galaxy ship. For example, if the driver takes a right turn, the ship in the VR game also veers to the right around an opposing spaceship. If the Audi e-tron accelerates, the ship in the experience does the same.
“While this CES demo was developed purely in the spirit of exploration and experimentation, we are constantly evaluating emerging technologies to enhance our stories and experiences,” Mike Goslin, VP of Disney Games and Interactive Experiences, said in a statement.
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The companies noted that they’re longtime partners: Audi, whose parent company is Volkswagen, and Marvel Studios first teamed up with the appearance of the Audi R8 in 2008’s “Iron Man.”
To launch the VR system commercially, Audi Electronics Venture co-founded a startup company, Holoride, which plans to license the virtual-reality entertainment platform — designed to use standard VR glasses for backseat passengers — to other carmakers and content developers within the next three years. Audi is spinning off Holoride, in which the automaker will retain a minority stake.
Down the road, other traffic events could become part the VR experience, according to Audi. For example, stopping at traffic lights could introduce unexpected obstacles in a game or interrupt a learning program with a quiz. “Creative minds will use our platform to come up with fascinating worlds that turn the journey from A to B into a real adventure,” said Nils Wollny, head of digital business at Audi who’s been tapped as the future CEO of Holoride.