Cars > Tech

Audi brings virtual reality to the rear seats of cars

Because Spotify music and Netflix movies are boring

Audi intends to turn regular drives into fun VR experiences. PHOTO FROM AUDI

In-car entertainment these days usually means tiny TVs embedded in headrests or a tablet of some sort being used to watch movies and play games. If things go according to Audi, however, then we’ll be in for a much-more-immersive experience in the future thanks to some clever virtual reality technology. The German automaker has presented a new concept and open platform at the just-finished Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which combines VR goggles with the actual movements of the car for a more entertaining ride. The boring school run might never be the same again.

Changing times demand a new way of entertaining bored car passengers on the road. So be it. PHOTOS FROM AUDI

To showcase their latest invention, boffins from Audi Electronics Venture tapped into the company’s partnership with Disney and created an in-car VR experience called “Marvel’s Avengers: Rocket’s Rescue Run.” In it, passengers can join Rocket from Guardians Of The Galaxy aboard his spaceship for a virtual flight through an asteroid field while they are sitting in the back of an Audi. What sets this apart from normal VR games is the fact that the content is tied to the physical movements of the vehicle. If the car turns, accelerates or brakes in real life, so does the spaceship in virtual reality.

While the car’s driver sees just the road ahead, his passengers at the back see this scene. SCREENSHOT FROM AUDI

Audi is so convinced that this is the next big thing in entertainment on wheels that the Germans have founded a new startup company called Holoride, which is tasked to develop the idea further and turn it into an open platform available to other carmakers and content producers. Their dream is to create tons of entertaining and educational VR content to keep rear-seat passengers happy during mundane drives or cross-country road trips. Normal movies and TV shows can also be streamed onto these devices, but we can’t help but wonder if this will really take off.

This might seem weird to observers in the beginning. PHOTOS FROM AUDI

As big fans of VR in general, we know full well that there are a number of pitfalls when it comes to putting on some fancy-looking googles and escaping into virtual worlds. For starters, VR can cause motion sickness in some people, and we imagine that combining it with a moving car might make things worse. Maybe the experience is really so immersive—or the tech so advanced—that any ill feelings due to the movement of the car are eliminated. But even then, you are left with rear-seat passengers who are there but not really there. Probably not the most sociable experience on long road trips. Maybe we’re all wrong and soon you’ll see loads of people with VR headsets in the back of cars. Could be interesting.

Frank Schuengel

Frank is a German e-commerce executive who loves his wife, a Filipina, so much he decided to base himself in Manila. He has interesting thoughts on Philippine motoring. He writes the aptly named ‘Frankly’ column.