Meta’s Reality Labs and BMW have teamed up to bring car passengers exclusive mixed reality experiences – and the idea is already making me feel nauseous.
Using Meta headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro, the pair produced a range of prototype VR experiences – from music-based meditation apps to interactive games, to mobile VR office spaces.
Unsurprisingly, making a VR experience work in a car isn’t as easy as making the experience work in a regular room. That’s because – at least for Quest headsets that rely on the Oculus Insight technology – the headset’s two main sensors will be picking up conflicting signals.
In a moving vehicle, the cameras rely on reference points inside the vehicle while the inertial motion sensors (IMUs) will determine your movement and acceleration relative to the outside world. That means the cameras might think you’re stationary while the IMUs believe you’re moving. (For you science nerds this wouldn’t be a problem if the car moved at an exactly constant speed, but that’s not feasible for a real-world vehicle).
To get around this hurdle, the research team used an additional information source: the BMW car’s sensor array. This additional IMU data set allows the VR system to accurately determine the Meta Quest Pro’s position relative to the vehicle. The team has said the next step is accurately to determine the car’s location compare to the rest of the world to enable world-locked rendering rather than simply car-locked. This would enable experiences such as virtual tour guides which could highlight landmarks and other points of interest.
What’s more, it looks like the goal is to develop mixed-reality experiences for not just passengers but drivers too. The mixed-reality system would potentially serve as an alternative to a traditional satnav and dashboard – it could provide in-depth directions, warn you of upcoming hazards and traffic, and tell you important information about the vehicle's health.
Thanks, I hate it
Despite being a huge fan of VR, I get motion sick surprisingly easily, so this idea of using VR while in a car sounds like a recipe for disaster. At the same time, I can see how the productivity and entertainment use cases of the tech could be a massive blessing.
I don’t like traveling. I love going to new places, but the act of getting there in a train/plane/automobile isn’t that enjoyable – I dislike it so much that I’ll sometimes sleep to skip through even 10-minute journeys if I’m a passenger. If I could have a virtual hangout with my friends, take a guided tour of the surrounding area, or enjoy a cinema-like movie experience I might find the journey much less boring.
Unfortunately, I expect my nausea might get in the way – looking at my phone in a moving car for too long can have me feeling worse for wear – but I can see others falling in love with what Reality Labs and BMW have developed.
It’ll be a while before any of us can take advantage of these car experiences, however. In the press release Claus Dorrer – the Head of BMW’s Technology Office in Mountain View – said it’s “too early to tell exactly how or when this technology will make it into customers’ hands” (read: it’s likely a long way off from public release).
We can’t help you find VR experiences to play in a moving vehicle, but we can suggest some of the best Oculus Quest 2 games for you to play at home right now.