Mixed Reality: The Future of Automotive?
How Will Mixed Reality Impact Our Cars?
Immersive technology advancements are impacting various parts of daily and office life.
Promises from virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (VR/AR/MR) firms signify that immersive solutions can enhance many aspects of a business’s operations, such as training processes, collaboration opportunities, design pipelines, and marketing.
Out of the extended reality (XR) technology systems that define the space, MR is the most emergent and presents a volume of opportunities for enterprise end-users.
This technology can have a massive influence on the way that multiple sectors work. Industries like healthcare, engineering, and manufacturing are already taking advantage of MR.
Notably, major automotive firms like BMW, Kia Motors, and Aston Martin are exploring the MR landscape to reap its benefits.
Some Automotive firms have leveraged XR much earlier than other consumer-facing brands – Like BMW, which first employed XR in 2020 to promote the Concept i4 electric car.
Improving the Customer Experience
Many companies are already leveraging XR to build brand awareness through engaging, immersive marketing campaigns.
Most social media applications employ basic AR software. AR integration provides brands a new avenue for engaging with audiences via platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.
Moreover, with increasing expectations from smartphone users for AR applications and features. Many brands are creating bespoke applications to rebuild brand/consumer relations with emerging technology.
Additionally, with more affordable smart glasses starting to enter the consumer market, broadcasting firms are exploring ways to leverage the next generation of mobile computing.
On the automotive side, as mentioned previously, firms like BMW are building a storied history of using XR to increase brand awareness following the pandemic.
BMW: Building an Automotive Marketing Use Case for Mixed Reality
In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent closure of many events, BMW turned to XR to showcase its then-upcoming Concept i4 electric car. The firm could not show the product in person at that year’s Geneva International Motor Show.
Following its success in 2020, BMW leveraged XR again to showcase many of its upcoming vehicles.
In July 2021, BMW collaborated with Engage on an immersive showcase event. The automotive company organised an engagement workshop for Formula E Motorsport, which project partners Engage assisted in transferring onto Pico VR headsets via its enterprise-grade Metaverse platform.
Moreover, in November 2022, BMW unveiled an MR real-time driving experience to showcase its M2 car.
BMW distributed the immersive experience during an industry event that transforms an entire M2 vehicle into an MR controller for an immersive gaming experience.
The firm achieved its vehicle simulation showcase using advanced MR headsets from project partner Varjo.
On the marketing side, BMW has a history of working with immersive brand campaign partners to promote upcoming cars – from the Art Car Program, which allows individuals to place AR renderings of classic BMW vehicles with a smartphone, to leveraging WebAR for smartphones, enabling potential buyers at home to preview a car in their driveway; BMW is consistently looking for new avenues of customer engagement.
Most recently, smart glasses firm Nreal partnered with BMW in late 2022 to upgrade the automotive firm’s virtual showroom portfolio to the next stage of consumer spatial computing.
Mixed Reality to Assist in Automotive Production
However, there is more to MR in the automotive industry than just building virtual showrooms and marketing campaigns.
Many automotive factories are experimenting with MR wearables to provide on-site workers with repair assistance and troubleshooting.
Changing the Way Teams Build Cars
XR is finding a home within design teams for various verticals. Already, free-to-use applications such as ShapesXR employ MR spatial design environments, which allow users to edit real-time 3D (RT3D) projects.
Many other leading MR hardware and software solution providers are partnering with automotive end-users to deliver bespoke immersive tools.
Effective vehicle design demands constant innovation and improvement. Working with physical mockups can add to a project’s overall cost and waste. However, with MR, companies can build true-to-life virtual versions of vehicles and visualise how they would operate in various scenarios.
MR tools can also help to develop and review various vehicle components. Digital design teams can leverage MR collaboration environments to connect and work with dispersed employees using shared RT3D design resources.
MR also makes it easier for companies to train employees with the skills they need to develop the best experiences in the automotive industry. RealWear Inc and Mercedes-Benz Otomotiv use immersive technology products to help participants carry out core design and manufacturing processes without unnecessary errors. This drastically improves team satisfaction rates while reducing risks and resource loss.
Mercedes-Benz Otomotiv is leveraging Realwear’s HMT-1 headset, an XR device that allows operators to access a range of mission-critical; resources hands-free while they partake in processes like repairs.
In a statement made to XR Today in March 2022, Realwear explained the benefits of its headset for the leading German automotive client:
The rollout of HMT-1s has enabled Mercedes-Benz Otomotiv to connect experts to staff out in the field via live video calls using Microsoft Teams to settle any issues that dealers are not able to resolve. Mercedes-Benz Otomotiv’s after-sales engineering/support teams can communicate with the technician with ease and can monitor the environment through the technician’s field of view (FoV) and convey real-time instructions.
Moreover, Kia Motors works with Autodesk and Varjo to provide its design teams with photorealistic environments to collaborate on RT3D automotive design documents.
Using Mixed Reality While Driving
Another more emerging use case for MR in the automotive space is leveraging the technology while driving.
Innovators in the automotive landscape are introducing new features to their cars that integrate immersive solutions to improve vehicle operations.
For example, BMW works with Basemark to develop AR solutions for safer driver navigation and information delivery.
Basemark leverages the BMW electric car’s onboard intelligent cameras and sensors to help a driver identify important road and vehicle information.
When BMW users enable the application’s navigation mode, the app can access real-time information about the car and its surroundings, displaying it as an AR visualisation on the car’s Central Information Display.
A BMW driver can receive upcoming lane recommendations and turn manoeuvres when following a route, with Basemark’s technology displaying the information directly on the central information display.
The hardware’s front-view camera can send live footage directly to a curved screen with interactive arrows to direct the driver where they need to go.
The news comes as leading digital technology firms like Google and Apple integrate AR navigational information into smartphone applications. Moreover, firms like Raythink are accelerating AR adoption for drivers.
The Future of Mixed Reality in Automotive
In the automotive landscape, XR offers various potential benefits, ranging from better production processes to enhanced customer experience.
As a general-purpose product, MR solutions are scaling leading into 2023, and more meaningful solutions will appear in the future.
As MR gains traction as a flexible solution for major brands, the technology should expand to more automotive clients soon.