Augmented reality and virtual reality are changing the way we see and interact with the world. In the age of networked driving, augmented reality has become an integral aspect of mobility.
“Star Trek” was not simply something for hard-core science fiction fans but also predicted the technology of the future:
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The cult series is full of gadgets and technologies that are now finding their way into our day-to-day lives. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) combined with artificial intelligence (AI) are the key words here. They expand our senses with new dimensions and information. Whereas VR fully immerses visitors to the cinema, experience parks or simulators in a virtual world, AR merges reality with computer-generated content. The world within the observer’s field of vision is enriched with digital information.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are especially effective when it comes to marketing and sales. You can enable your customers to configure the desired vehicle in a virtual showroom and then experience the vehicle in 3D in a realistic traffic situation. For example, Volkswagen presented the new Touareg with an AR app in 2018.
Automotive manufacturers and suppliers are also experimenting with the new technology in areas which customers do not see: virtual glasses assist the workshop service personnel and mechanics with their work. Using sophisticated VR tools, new vehicles can be engineered down to the finest details or employed in simulations – without having to invest real materials. This helps to save time and reduce development costs. Digital technologies also serve a purpose in logistics, vocational and advanced training and also trade fairs.
With cameras, apps and an Internet connection, smartphones are essentially equipped with everything the current trend requires. The “Google Lens” AI image recognition app has been available since summer 2018. It transforms the smartphone’s camera into a search engine. When out shopping for the day, you can use your smartphone to scan a shop window and let the artificial intelligence analyse the image information. The app displays additional information about products or alternative online offers in real time. Originally, “Google Glass”, the Internet company’s intelligent data glasses, were intended to provide the same function. However, the product was a flop. The technology in general temporarily suffered a loss of image.
The scientist Babak Parviz is regarded as the father of “Google Glass”. He is also renowned for another ground-breaking invention: in 2009, Parviz presented the world’s first smart contact lens that is simply placed in the eye. Information is transferred to the display wirelessly. To the user, the images appear to float in the air. Since this technological breakthrough, numerous companies have been researching and working on a new form of vision. In 2016, the electronics company Samsung patented a contact lens of this type. It combines a camera, motion sensors and a display. You can select options by blinking, for example. In addition, it is also augmented reality-capable, enabling the system to enrich what you can see with additional information.
Augmented reality is not as futuristic as it might sound: live broadcasts of sporting events and the weather report have long been enriched with computer-generated information. In the middle of last century, the idea of virtual reality or augmented reality had already been realised. In 1968, the computer graphic artist, Ivan Sutherland, presented the very first head-mounted display – an early form of the data glasses which projected three-dimensional shapes directly in front of the user’s eyes. AR technology has been used in pilot helmets and aircraft cockpits for decades. At the end of the 1980s, US American and Japanese car makers began equipping vehicles with head-up displays (HUDs) for the first time. Today, the display options range from speed, navigation instructions and warnings such as exceeding speed limits or dangers ahead to displaying distance warnings and fuel levels along with entertainment functions.
With the development toward the fully networked cockpit in the age of the Connected Car, the range of functions will continue to grow and become more sophisticated: in 2017 “Konica Minolta” presented the world’s first three-dimensional HUD which is capable of presenting diverse information depending on the vehicle’s speed at different virtual distances. In the same year at the “Consumer Electronics Show” (CES), a German car maker presented a free-floating hologram with control elements for the vehicle interior at the height of the centre console which can be controlled using gestures. Eventually, the system could display location-specific offers such as sites worth seeing or restaurant recommendations in addition to the current navigation information. What if every imaginable surface in the city was AR-controlled? This would eliminate the need for traffic lights, lane markings, zebra crossings and all of these would only be visible to road users. This would perhaps even enable the road lanes and traffic guidance to be adapted to the traffic situation in real time – almost anything is imaginable.