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With all the recent interest in augmented reality (AR) and the metaverse, automakers are looking to integrate AR elements into vehicles. A growing number of in-car infotainment systems, for example, are now integrating AR into their augmented GPS navigation systems, displaying holographic arrows on a live feed of images from the front of the car.
Some automakers are trying to take this AR adoption one step further by bringing the metaverse into vehicles. Its introduction to the in-car experience could be through interactive holographic windshields or by projecting avatars onto passenger seats. While this presents opportunities for entertainment and education, it also opens the door to distractions and even more pervasive advertising.
The use of AR in cars has been limited until recently. The first AR head-up display (HUD) was the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system, produced in the Mercedes A-Class in 2018. Its GPS visibly highlights junction exits and final destinations on the screens. as well as potential hazards such as potholes, pedestrians and other vehicles on the road. Since its introduction, other companies including BMW, Continental and Hyundai have introduced AR into their own infotainment systems.
There are still no commercially available vehicles with AR HUDs directly on the windshields, however, there are a few concept cars that have featured the technology. WayRay, for example, developed the Holograktor, described as a “metaverse on wheels” due to its heavy reliance on AR technology. It is an electric concept car that can be driven remotely from an AR module by a trained driver, giving the car a sense of autonomy while avoiding currently immature fully autonomous driving systems. WayRay Founder and CEO Vitaly Ponomarev said he hopes the car will be on the market, possibly with a major automaker, by 2025, but also said the Holograktor could instead be used as an example for d other OEMs who want to make similar cars with WayRay’s AR. Technology.
The car promises a number of entertainment opportunities: its seats come with joysticks that can be used to play games on the windshield AR HUDs with others in the metaverse, and it even comes preloaded with a Guitar Hero-esque online karaoke game. Advertising opportunities are also there. According to Ponomarev, “The idea is that you can choose Uber Black, Uber SUV or Uber Hololograktor. And if you choose the Hololograktor, your ride will be subsidized with sponsored content so the price is much lower.
It’s unclear whether consumers will want ads to be so prominently integrated into their journeys. It can be useful to have sponsored content on the windshields if you are actively looking for a restaurant or a museum, for example, but otherwise having advertisements constantly in your periphery could disrupt the privacy that some people seek in the web. carpooling experience. .
Given that one of the selling points of the Holograktor is that it learns your routes, habits and preferences, and can even anticipate your next trip, the issue of data usage has to be answered. With the growing catalog of inappropriate behavior by internet companies, regulators and consumers alike are beginning to have doubts about how data is handled. If Holograktor offers the data it collects to technology companies and other advertisers, it could result in highly personalized and possibly invasive advertisements. With public trust in Big Tech companies at staggeringly low levels, it’s unclear if consumers would be willing to give up this data for a cut price.
Nissan has also taken a step into the metaverse with its I2V Invisible to Visible AR concept, which it debuted at CES 2019. The system highlights obstacles that might not be obvious to the driver via a display inside vehicle to improve driver safety and comfort. If the driver is wearing AR glasses, the system also allows individuals to appear in the passenger seat of the vehicle as a 3D avatar. It could be a family member or friend to keep you company on a long drive, or a local guide to answer questions and give recommendations. Nissan hopes to deploy the technology in its vehicles from 2025.
Again, the new social and educational opportunities that could arise from this are exciting. By merging the real and virtual worlds, individuals at home could join friends on trips around the world. These usually long and boring journeys can then be interrupted by the avatars of your loved ones. Drivers could experience the world around them through the eyes of a local, or even in a completely different time period thanks to AR overlays.
However, the main problem – and the more general obstacle to the widespread adoption of the metaverse and augmented reality in vehicles – is that being able to clearly see the outside world is a critical safety issue when a human is driving. If the AR overlay isn’t accurate enough, drivers could make mistakes and end up in crashes. If overlays are too distracting, drivers may miss important information about obstacles and obstructions. These questions must be of paramount importance to automakers looking to adopt AR in vehicles.
Emilio Campa is an analyst in the thematic team of data analysis and consulting firm GlobalData.
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