My mom likes to remind my brothers and me that when we were kids, being bored was the absolute worst state we could possibly find ourselves in. And there was no place more unbearable than the back seat of my dad’s Oldsmobile, because there was nothing to do in the 1980s besides fight over the Nintendo Game Boy and read Nancy Drew mysteries. The only thing that could make it worse was someone forgetting their Sea Band motion sickness-prevention bracelet; then boredom was the least of our worries.
But today, Audi is working to change the way we deal with dreaded car sickness. Last week at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the company announced a spin-off company called Holoride, which aims to bring virtual reality (VR) tech to the back seat.
According to Tech Crunch, the company’s management team was formed when Marcus Kühne, who was project lead of Audi’s VR experience, and Daniel Profendiner, a software engineer at Audi, wrote the same patent — without ever having spoken to each other. The patent centered on using VR as a sales application and for simulations.
Nils Wollny, head of digital business at Audi, was presented with the concept-in-the-making, and recognized a much bigger opportunity: integrating VR into cars in order to prevent motion sickness, which often occurs when people are watching too-small screens.
The Holoride platform is designed to work in tandem with a car’s movement: The content that users view through their headsets matches the movement of the vehicle. During tests of the new technology, participants said they couldn’t really tell that the car was moving fast. Through the use of standard VR glasses, the developers hope that the movies and games viewed on these screens will be so synchronized with the user’s motion that the chance of motion sickness will be significantly reduced.
And it’s not just for Audis: The company, as it develops, plans to offer an open platform that will allow all automakers, as well as content developers, to create reality formats of their choosing.