[By Sam Ochanji]
Holoride is a new technology and company that spun out of Audi with the aim of bringing virtual reality experiences to the backseat of every car. The Holoride technology is platform-agnostic so it is theoretically deployable in every car, taking in-car experiences to a whole new level of immersion.
For the first time, Audi is now making the Holoride technology available to the public. The luxury automaker has teamed up with Universal Pictures and Ford to showcase the world’s first “in-car virtual reality experience”. Holoride’s technology allows its gaming partners like Disney to create virtual experiences that will synchronize with the vehicle’s real-time movements. Passengers sitting in the vehicle will wear a headset and immerse themselves into the virtual experience. The Holoride technology pulls data from the car such as the navigation route, GPS, steering angle as well as the g-forces from the acceleration. This data is subsequently translated into the virtual environment in real-time.
As a result, when a vehicle accelerates from 0-50mph and the car takes a corner, the passenger’s virtual world will also accelerate and take a turn. This will happen in the VR experience that they are immersed in be it the space, underwater or in some comic-book fantasy world. There is a synchronicity of movements in the real and the virtual world and this also helps eliminate motion sickness or the feeling of nausea that passengers often feel when they are reading or playing with a smartphone while they are in motion.
Holoride has already entered into high-profile content partnerships with some of the top industry players such as Disney, Mackevision and Schell Games since its founding in 2016.
On some select days between October 14th and November 9th, Holoride will allow the public to test its VR in-car entertainment product for the first time. Holoride will be partnering with the immersive entertainment specialist Universal Pictures and Rewind for the event. The immersive entertainment company created a virtual reality experience based on the 1935 film Bride of Frankenstein which visitors who sign up for the experience will be able to try out for free at the Universal CityWalk in Hollywood while sitting in the second row of a new Ford Explorer. Visitors will put on their headsets and travel in the vehicle as they immerse themselves in the Halloween-themed virtual journey.
During the ride, passengers have to buckle themselves in the backseat, put on the virtual headset and they will be provided with a controller. They will then spend between 5- and 10-minutes riding around the Universal CityWalk area while battling ghosts and assisting the Bride of Frankenstein send a package to her reanimated husband.
The Holoride concept was developed to create a more dynamic backseat virtual experience which will match the real movement of the vehicle by leveraging the data from the vehicle’s sensors and computers as well as the navigational information of the vehicle. The result will be an immersive experience that will last as long as the ride takes thereby immersing passengers in an engrossing entertainment experience.
The Holoride concept first debuted at CES and it was positioned as a “perfectly motion-synchronized journey through virtual worlds”. The motion matching innovation was created to minimize the motion sickness though the mileage will vary depending on the user. It may not totally eliminate the motion sickness.
A Hardware-Agnostic Experience
As already mentioned, the Holoride experience has been created to be both hardware and content agnostic. You will notice that while the CES demo had been performed in conjunction with Audi and Disney, the new experience has been created in partnership with Ford and Universal which further goes to demonstrate how the Holoride technology will work in multiple vehicle models and with multiple content partners. No matter the car model that they are riding in, passengers will be able to experience the Holoride experience should the technology see an industry-wide deployment.
The new Bride of Frankenstein experience in Los Angeles will be demonstrated on public roads around Universal CityWalk rather than on a “safer” racetrack like in the CES demo. As a result, the demo won’t involve much high-speed and dynamic driving. However, to truly make this experience part of the normal driving habits or ride-hailing, Holoride will have to work hard to create experiences that will be equally compelling in normal traffic.
Many gaming experts who have tested the technology have appreciated its potential to have a huge impact on virtual reality. It’s a good step for virtual reality, which has generated a lot of buzz lately but has seen very little traction in concrete terms in spite of the hype.
In a way, the Holoride is pretty much like the other location-based virtual reality experiences. You are immersed into the virtual environment and the physical environment around you is somehow plugged into this virtual experience. In the case of the Holoride, it sort of feels like a video game played within a theme park ride, in this case, the car acts almost like a theme park in motion as its physical motion is seamlessly translated into the virtual experience.
The Holoride concept could be used successfully to transform the boredom of long rides or traffic congestion into immersive educational and entertainment experiences. Last month, Holoride partnered with The Discovery Channel to show how slow traffic scenes could be transformed into deep-sea exploration journeys or drone flights over a futuristic city.
With the abundance of ride-hailing services such as Lyft, Uber, Grab and Didi which carry hundreds of millions of passengers per year, there is already a massive passenger economy that can be leveraged to offer passengers these deeply immersive experience. A Holoride-like experience could also have some implication for the upcoming autonomous age with its driverless cars.