BMW Has Massive Plans For Virtual Reality While Driving

Technology / Comments

We're thinking Forza-style driving aids, but there are plenty of other potential applications.

BMW has announced that it is making serious headway into the realms of virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR), and its latest research prototype is said to overcome some of the key stumbling blocks to the technology's integration in modern cars.

As you may know, VR headsets contain cameras and motion sensors to detect their position as the user moves their head, using that data to keep the image that the user sees stable. But when the technology is implemented in a fast-moving car, conventional headsets cannot correlate the lack of movement within the car with the movement outside and that of the user's head.

But now BMW has found a solution, and that means that VR, MR, and XR (extended reality) could soon be found in new BMW models.


Claus Dorrer, Head of BMW Group Technology Office USA in Mountain View, warns us not to get our hopes up for an imminent launch of the tech, but suggests that it will be worth the wait:

"It is too early to tell exactly how or when this technology will make it into customers' hands, but we envision a number of potential use cases for XR devices in vehicles - from assisting the driver in locating their car in a crowded parking lot to alerting them to hazards on the road and surfacing important information about the vehicle's condition. The implications of future AR glasses and VR devices - for passengers as well as drivers - are promising. The research partnership with Meta will allow us to discover what immersive, in-vehicle XR experiences could look like in the future and spearhead the seamless integration of such devices into cars."

So how did BMW and Meta make it work?


The two entities worked together to take information from a car's sensor array and incorporate it into the tracking system of a Meta Quest Pro headset. With this data, the VR system can calculate the headset's location relative to the car and the car's position relative to the outside world. This allows the system to accurately anchor virtual objects in your view, allowing one to interact with menus and features without irritation.

With this, BMW can make VR a viable technology for accessing things like the infotainment system, opening up new games and productivity apps, and even a meditation feature. But in our mind, there's another potential use if the tech progresses far enough.


If this technology becomes as good as it seems it will, BMW could potentially give drivers the ability to see virtual driving line indicators and braking and acceleration zones, like in the Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo video games. If the racetracks are pre-loaded into the system, the tech should work even more smoothly. Naturally, it would need to be calibrated for different cars, as a BMW M5 would have slightly different braking zones, racing lines, and acceleration zones than a 2 Series.

Ferrari has also been looking at how to make better drivers using in-car tech and recently patented its take on virtual driving aids, too, so we doubt BMW hasn't thought of this application. The automaker now needs to refine the tech further and make it more cost-efficient, and if it can do that before its peers, it could have an entertaining edge, particularly once autonomous driving eventually becomes viable.


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