Articles, Car-Electronics, Smart Mobility

How Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality will impact Automobiles

Autonomy is exciting, but it’s not the only futuristic technology that’s making waves in the auto industry. Augmented reality, which enhances real environments with graphical overlays, is expected to break new ground in vehicles deployed in the not too distant future.

“Augmented reality [could give] you information about the landmark or the street in front of you, info on where the parking spots are, or information about different restaurants in the area,” said Mark Boyadjis, principal analyst and manager for automotive user experience at IHS Markit. “It could be giving you information about the pedestrian in front of you and whether or not they’re going to cross the street. Those use cases are easily defined and could easily improve the driving experience”.

Many AR solutions, such as Google Glass and Microsoft’s HoloLens, were developed as headsets that could theoretically be used inside the vehicle. Navdy developed a car-specific head-up display that hinted at what might be possible when that technology is integrated directly into the windshield. “A lot of automakers are currently investigating and researching what’s going to happen in that space as it pertains to the use cases, supply chain, technical challenges and cost model,” Boyadjis added. “We think that augmented reality has a lot of opportunities in the automotive space.”

Lumus, a startup that develops optics for AR glasses, is currently working with a number of partners on the next generation of augmented reality. Marketing VP David Goldman could not comment on the specifics of what is being developed, but he provided a few insights regarding where the technology is headed.

“There’s two real ways that our partners are looking at this,” said Goldman. “One is to fix augmented reality content to the static real-world object. So I’m looking at the road ahead of me and I can see how fast I’m going, what direction I need to go and when I need to make a turn. Then there’s fixing the content to non-static items like pedestrians, other cars, adapting our position dynamically to real-world objects. That’s how companies we’re talking to are breaking it down.”

Thus far, the most intriguing AR features are those that could enhance the experience of driving. But they could prove to be equally valuable in autonomous vehicles as passengers look for more information – and, perhaps, more distractions – while commuting. Virtual reality, which masks the real world with virtual sounds and environments, may not be as useful inside the vehicle, at least not right away. However, Derek Kerton, founder and chairman of the Autotech Council in Silicon Valley, expects VR to help automakers build better vehicles.

“There’s a lot of things you could do with a simulator in terms of detecting user behavior, user interface and experimenting with HMI concepts that you could do in some kind of virtualized environment,” said Kerton. “That’s one aspect – strapping on goggles – and you can do eye tracking and see how a person uses a user interface. Instead of having a mockup of a fake console/dashboard, you could just completely do it inside of goggles. It’s not the real experience, but man it’s a lot cheaper.”

Kerton said this could be used to test consumer reaction times in traditional cars. For example, how fast do consumers react when a virtual deer jumps in front of the vehicle? VR could also be used in testing Level 3 and 4 autonomous vehicles to determine how quickly consumers can successfully transition between driving modes.

“[VR] is something you can use to see how people will react to machines without having to mock up a big system,” said Kerton.

About the author:

Louis Bedigian is an experienced journalist and contributor to various automotive trade publications. He is a dynamic writer, editor and communications specialist with expertise in the areas of journalism, promotional copy, PR, research and social networking.

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