Technology seen here will soon make its way to the brand's upcoming range of Neue Klasse vehicles.
BMW has previewed the new i Vision Dee, a mid-sized sedan concept that showcases the future of digital technology in vehicles. Dee, which stands for Digital Emotional Experience, has been designed to improve a stronger bond between individuals and their cars.
How does it plan to do this, you ask? By changing everything we know about digital functions. According to the German firm, Dee goes beyond voice control and the driver assist systems we know, thanks to "almost human capabilities." Let's begin with the BMW Mixed Reality Slider, which works together with the head-up display (HUD).
This, says the automaker, is the central operating control of i Vision Dee. Using shy-tech sensors, the driver can choose how much digital content they see on the HUD. This ranges from conventional driving information right up to augmented-reality projection.
Believe it or not, the i Vision Dee is capable of transforming itself into a VR experience using nothing more than dimmable glass and digital capabilities.
"A BMW lives by its unparalleled digital performance. BMW i Vision Dee is about perfect integration of virtual and physical experiences," said Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW. "Whoever excels at integrating the customer's everyday digital worlds into the vehicle at all levels will succeed in mastering the future of car-building."
While contemporary vehicles are able to offer a simple greeting or goodbye, i Vision Dee goes a step further. When approaching the vehicle, a personalized welcome scenario - comprised of light, sound, and graphical effects - beckons the driver. What's more the concept sedan can even talk to people and express emotions such as joy.
As is popular in the world of social media, the car can even project an avatar of the driver onto the side window to further enrich the welcome scenario. This is not a run-of-the-mill 5 Series. Furthermore, the closed kidney grille and headlights form part of a physical and digital setup that enables the vehicle to pull off facial expressions.
If you thought the E Ink-painted BMW iX Flow was impressive, the i Vision Dee will blow you away. Instead of just two colors, the marque's latest concept can display up to 32 hues. BMW explains that the body is divided up into 240 E ink segments, all of which are controlled separately. As such, myriad patterns can be configured and shown off within seconds.
"With the BMW i Vision Dee, we are showcasing what is possible when hardware and software merge. In this way, we are able to exploit the full potential of digitalization to transform the car into an intelligent companion. That is the future for automotive manufacturers - and, also, for BMW: the fusion of the virtual experience with genuine driving pleasure," said Oliver Zipse, CEO of BMW.
But is this just a collection of gimmicks? Is BMW flexing its technological prowess? Well, yes and no. While this is all hugely impressive in a concept car sort of way, the full-width head-up display will make its way into the marque's Neue Klasse models from 2025 onwards.
As for the design, it's clear that BMW has tapped the past for inspiration. The influence of the "shark nose" era BMWs - E28 7 Series, E24 6 Series - is clear in the front end.
Unlike more modern BMW vehicles, the i Vision Dee is devoid of superfluous styling details. The automaker says this was intentional, and done to "focus attention on the digital experience and the DNA of the BMW brand." Rather refreshingly, a three-box design was chosen to represent the core of the company. After all, traditional sedans are what the brand built its reputation on.
We can see traditional design touches like the Hofmeister kink and twin circular headlights are present, but have been reimagined for the future. This has been done by replacing analog elements with phygital (physical and digital) icons. Inside, you'll find a minimalist interior that places a focus on the digital experience. The steering wheel boasts touchpoints that "wake up" when touched and can be operated by moving your thumb across the surface.
These phygital controls are projected onto the windscreen, and this, says BMW, supports the principle of "hands on the wheel, eyes on the road."
Head of BMW Group Design, Adrian van Hooydonk, explains the aim of the i Vision Dee's design. "With BMW i Vision Dee, we are showing how the car can be seamlessly integrated into your digital life and become a trusty companion. The vehicle itself becomes your portal to the digital world - with the driver always in control. Implemented the right way, technology will create worthwhile experiences, make you a better driver and simply bring humans and machines closer together."
Bizarre marketing aside, it looks like Dee will revolutionize the way we communicate with cars in the future. Some may describe it as a gimmick, but there's no denying this is impressive. Now, if BMW could further refine the styling and introduce the concept as a retro-flavored sports sedan, that would be great.
Oh, and if you're wondering why Herbie and K.I.T.T. were at the reveal, BMW was playing on the theme of cars that have a mind of their own.