BMW officially unveils the i Vision Dee concept this Thursday in Las Vegas. It is at the world’s largest technology fair, CES, that the public and most of the press begin to have contact with the novelty. After all, the prototype showcases the technologies the automaker intends to implement in its future models with a focus on digitization and person-car integration, based on the Neue Klasse, a new generation arriving in 2025.
Our reporting team already tested i Vision Dee’s systems about a month ago. The preview was held for a select group of journalists at the marque’s headquarters in Germany, before the prototype was shipped to the United States.
The i Vision Dee surprises first because it introduces a breakthrough in E Ink technology. A team of engineers from BMW developed the film’s application of digital players, such as the Kindle, in vehicle bodywork and visual model control modes, in collaboration with E Ink. At last year’s CES, the brand presented the iX Flow, with a shell that alternated patterns in different shades of gray. Dee can display 32 different colors on her body and wheels.
“The film components realign themselves when an electrical charge is applied to the film. For solid color, we have multiple layers and electrical nodes, but what defines the color is the voltage that is applied. So, we work a series of voltage profiles to generate the effect we want. The possibilities are endless. And the energy consumption is low, as the electric charge is only needed to generate the colours, not to maintain them,” explains Stella Clark, research engineer at BMW who leads the project .
However, the main novelty is inside. The i Vision Dee does not have an in-dash screen. The entire windshield area becomes a panel that integrates traffic information, vehicle gauges, navigation and the driver’s phone features, including messaging, calling and social networking.
“It’s not about a bigger screen or more lines of code. It’s about understanding what’s important to the consumer, what makes them smile, what they want,” explains Nicolai Giles, vice president of sales and technology. “I Vision Dee is an exciting digital experience. It’s not a car. It’s the next level of human interaction,” he adds. The name Dee is a reference to this description, or, Digital Emotional Experience, in English.
A device in the rear of the cabin projects information onto the glass, which transforms into a huge head-up display. This is only possible because the entire windshield is coated with a material that has the exact glare and transparency adjustment to display high definition images without blocking the driver from seeing the real world. The composition of the film is kept secret by BMW.
The brand promise is a complete integration of the driver’s digital life with the vehicle, but fluidly and imperceptibly, so that this structure is not perceived. The centerpiece of the system is what BMW calls the Mixed Reality Slider. The driver can choose the amount of digital content he wants to see on the windscreen by swiping his finger across the panel.
The system has five modes, ranging from analogue, driving information, communication/entertainment content, augmented reality projection, to entry into virtual worlds. In the latter, dimmable windows can be used to gradually fade away from reality to a purely virtual experience.
Dee is also able to “talk” to people and express emotions such as joy, surprise, or approval. External sensors and AI like Amazon’s Alexa generate personalized greetings. The headlights and grille form a single piece where messages are displayed using E Ink technology. A driver avatar can be created and projected onto the windows for an even more personal experience.
“Hardware and software merge with artificial intelligence to deliver the perfect driving experience,” sums up Olivier Pitrat, project manager for interface design at BMW and one of Dee’s co-sponsors. “There has always been a strong emotional bond with the car. Digitization can amplify that and make it the ideal companion,” he says.
Driving on Pandora
UOL Carros accompanied a demonstration of the complete system inside the Dee, but with the prototype stationary. Report also drove a BMW M4 that simulates immersion in mixed reality, but still with the help of virtual reality glasses. The feeling of being immersed and the level of integration impress like few technologies ever tested by this journalist.
In augmented reality mode, navigation information, such as arrows, speed limits and distances, literally drawn on the route and integrated into the ‘real world’, make the mistake of someone who has one eye on the road and the other on Google Maps something of a very distant past. . Even with 100% lifts, the route corresponds exactly to the physical road, but the landscapes are transformed and it’s like driving in Narnia or Pandora.
The system, however, fascinates as much as it overwhelms the driver. BMW emphasizes that the consumer will always be in control of what they want to see. In analog mode, in fact, the presence of the Mixed Reality Slider is barely perceptible. The cabin has modern lines and materials, but without being over the top. It’s clean and, strangely, almost low-tech.
“High-tech appears when you need it. It’s like the TV in your house. When it’s off, you want it to disappear. Nobody likes that huge black screen with no function,” explains Kai Langer, Head of BMW i Design, which he calls human-centered design.
The automaker also points out that the prototype aims to show what is possible with the technology and what features will be adapted according to traffic regulations and even road conditions. That is, WhatsApp messages jumping across the windshield or the BR-101 transformed into an Avatar landscape may only work in self-driving or even not be available in early models.
According to BMW, the Neue Klasse will start with a “standard production version” of the “advanced head-up display” in 2025 and did not provide concrete dates for the eventual implementation of the mixed reality system.
We need? The real need for some of these features still eludes many of us, but the brand looks to the customer of the future, who has different preferences from a middle-aged journalist.
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