LAS VEGAS — There’s a use case for virtual reality that remains untapped: the automobile. “VR in the car” – where passengers amuse themselves with virtual reality (VR) headsets instead of phones or iPads – sounds like a good idea on paper but the tech is notorious for inflicting motion sickness on many wearers, even when they’re standing still. Throw in a moving car and you’re practically guaranteed to need a (non-virtual) barf bag.
There’s a way to solve this problem, and a startup spun out from Audi has done it. Holoride, launching in the U.S. at CES 2023, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the car’s motion in real time, combining that with the head movements of the wearer to smooth out the experience and ensure any barf bags stay in the seat-back pocket. For testing the product at CES 2023, we can confirm that it works.
The company has also added a metaverse element: Its platform is powered by a token, RIDE, based on the MultiversX blockchain (formerly Elrond). The token incentivizes developers by acting as an in-game loyalty token with real value, and for users, it functions as a currency, portable across games compatible with Holoride as well as any future products that choose to integrate RIDE into the experience.
Holoride ambitiously calls this vision the “Motorverse,” and it’s spent a lot of time thinking it through. The company spun out of Audi years ago, and while the hardware is new to the market, it’s been crafting the platform for a while. RIDE launched at the end of 2021, and it’s since been listed on several exchanges, the company says: Gate.io, Bitstamp, MEXC Global and the MutiversX decentralized exchange.
“We wanted to come up with a very fair compensation method for the creators we work with,” Nils Wollny, CEO of Holoride, told CoinDesk. “So the revenue we generate, we split with the creators that build for our platform. We didn't want to be… a black box – we wanted to make this transparent.”
I got a chance to try out Holoride at CES. Riding in the backseat, we were able to play Cloudbreakers: Living Haven, a game where your character flies through the air with relatively complex movements, punching and shooting at various drones to shatter them to smithereens. As the car made a series of turns in the Las Vegas traffic, the movement within the game mimicked the car’s motion in perfect synchronicity, keeping the action right in front of me. As a result, I barely noticed.
It wasn’t perfect, however. When I stopped playing games and instead fired up Netflix to watch Seinfeld, the app initially thought I was facing the rear of the car. That was quickly fixable with an easy re-centering of the user interface (very common in VR), but as we drove the orientation of the app kept drifting to one side or the other, requiring me to keep hitting the recenter button every minute or so. That would get tiresome after anything longer than a television clip. Nonetheless, I liked the Holoride video experience since it meant I didn’t have to crane my neck over a phone.
“We have developed a tech stack that picks up the car data in real time,” explains Wollny “You don't get motion sick … because you see this moving in your peripheral view the whole time.”
Holoride needs to fully understand the car’s motion to work. The tech can be built directly into a car’s systems, though it’s only available on select Audi models so far. But the product launching at CES is an aftermarket solution: the Holoride retrofit, a short black cylinder gadget about the size of a hockey puck that you mount on your windshield. That puck then connects wirelessly with the headset to work its motion-fusion magic.
Holoride is based on the HTC Vive VR platform and it works with the Vive Flow headset, which connects with the puck (or car system) wirelessly. If you’ve already got a Vive Flow you can buy the puck for just $199, but the company expects it will sell more packages with the headset included, which sells for $799 (the Vive Flow typically retails for $499 on its own). You’ll also need a subscription to the Holoride platform, which costs $20 a month or $180 yearly.
That’s because Wollny says Holoride’s target customer isn’t necessarily a metaverse enthusiast, but rather a busy parent looking for a different experience for their kids in the back seat on long drives.
“Primarily we focus on families at the moment – teenagers on backseats,” he says. “With our tokens, whether you are a parent, whether you’re a kid, you can benefit from this. That's our core focus.”
Time will tell whether that amounts to a robust market. But if it does, the company is prepped to meet it: With a metaverse platform, a Web3 token and a gadget that actually works, Holoride is poised to take over VR in the car – as long as customers are willing to come along for the ride.
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