“X-ray Vision” may be coming to a car near you: BMW partners with Qualcomm to bring augmented reality to the MINI

by Will Mason • April 9th, 2015

Today in Shanghai, MINI (a BMW Group brand) gave us a glimpse into the possible future of the automotive industry, showing off a new AR eyewear system designed specifically for use inside of the vehicle. The project’s goal is to help create a safer and more comfortable driving experience (at least for as long as we are still driving cars ourselves).

A visual comparison between ODG's Consumer Smart Glasses and MINI's Augmented Vision

A visual comparison between ODG’s Consumer Smart Glasses and MINI’s Augmented Vision

The pair of glasses, which are being dubbed “MINI Augmented Vision,” are the result of a collaboration between the BMW Group and “several Qualcomm companies.” While this has not been confirmed yet, that likely means that the glasses are the result of a collaboration between them and the Osterhout Design Group (ODG), who have been working with Qualcomm on trying to solve the complex issues still presented to us by AR.

The new AR system will allow for some pretty cool things, including “X-Ray View” which will allow for “a virtual view through all the parts of the vehicle (such as A-pillars and doors)” which will allow you to more easily see what is around the car (no more backing over toys left in the driveway – or worse, children).

X-ray Vision in your car with AR

X-ray Vision in your car with AR

In addition to the X-ray vision, the system will allow for a slew of other options including heads-up display functions, navigation, messaging, and “Augmented Parking” which will project displays from the curbside mirror’s camera into the glasses allowing you to more easily judge the distance to the curb.

“We are proud to have helped develop a breakthrough augmented reality interface between eyewear and the automobile,” Says Jay Wright VP of Qualcomm Connected Experiences, Inc. in the press release, “MINI Augmented Vision offers a compelling example of what’s possible today, and what we can expect in the future.”

The glasses sleek design is was created by the Designworks team at MINI, but a lot of the form factor can also be attributed to ODG (assuming they were involved). I had a chance to try out the ODG glasses at Qualcomm’s booth at GDC. In one tech demo they showed me they were able to make a monochromatic red teapot float in space locked in position – well close to it, there was still a noticeable amount of jitter. This was on the the R-6 Industrial model while the MINI Augmented Vision system seems to be much closer to the Consumer model, which is “coming 2015.”

Stylin’ in the ODG R-6 Glasses

Either way, this is currently being called an “exclusive prototype” which means we may not see it hit a consumer market for a while. That being said, augmented reality already has a place in the automotive industry and this seems like a logical next step in that maturation.

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