BMW i Vision Dee: Frightening Future or Bright Beginning?

BMW have unveiled their i Vision Dee concept after a very cryptic online marketing campaign over the past month. What is the i Vision Dee? It’s what BMW call a vision of the future of motoring by introducing “future digital functions” and no that doesn’t include auto-driving capabilities. However, after looking at the information BMW have provided, one must ask if this is a good thing?

So what are these “future digital functions”? The big one is the Heads-Up-Display (HUD) that extends across the full length of the windscreen. BMW believes this showcases “what is possible when hardware and software merge.” They also promise that “future digital functions will go far beyond the level of voice control and driver assistance systems we are familiar with today.” 

The “far beyond level” is exhibited in the BMW Mixed Reality Slider which will allow drivers to adjust the amount of information provided on the HUD. There are five selection ranges:

  • Analogue 
  • Driving related information only
  • Contents of the communication system
  • Augmented-reality projection
  • Virtual reality

Is This Really a Good Thing?

Perhaps with integration like this you won’t need to touch your phone while driving, but is having your text messages appear on the windscreen less distracting?  Head of BMW Group Design, Adrian van Hooydonk, doesn’t think so as long as things are “implemented the right way”. In his perspective, “The vehicle itself becomes your portal to the digital world – with the driver always in control.” 

Perhaps taking a page out of Tesla’s mistakes, BMW are focusing on keeping the driver in control rather than allowing them to take a backseat. In fact, the additional features of the i Vision Dee are more focused on giving the car personality. A car’s personality is attributed to multiple factors including the look, the handling, and how often it would break down. In addition to this, BMW have provided the car with a face. The headlights and kidney grilles form a hybrid physical and digital surface that allows the car to produce facial expressions. Imagine: road rage expressed through your own car! 

The car can also talk to you. Actually, on that note, take a look at the promo video BMW made. It has Arnold Schwarzenegger talking to the car and highlighting the qualities of the past, arguing that cars then were real and provided real experiences and memories. The i Vision Dee says that’s just sentimental nonsense, and talking cars are the future without providing any real argument against what Schwarzenegger is saying (well, what the script’s saying). How introducing virtual reality to a car improves it is not really explained either. Augmented reality, yes, that can provide information that is normally reserved for the dashboard. But driving a car steeped in the Metaverse? Perhaps a rise in traffic accidents is the only thing we can expect. 

Considering that everything seems incredibly vague right now, this seems like most virtual reality tech announcements. Half-baked and full of promises with no actual knowledge or insight into what can be realistically achieved and be commercially viable. Yes, they could and probably have created something that can drive in virtual reality, but if the car costs $500,000 who is going to buy it? People buy expensive supercars for the performance and experience you get by driving them. Would you pay as much for a regular sedan with features you already have available on your computer? 

As for providing new experiences… why drive on a nice road in a beautiful landscape on the weekend when you could just adjust a setting here and there and now your commute to work isn’t through an industrial park, but a brilliant sunset on a Greek island. As everyone is surely aware, if you play a hyper-realistic video game set in Greece, you’ve basically visited the country. Right? 

As it stands, everything is left purposefully vague by BMW with further insights promised to appear throughout 2023. However, it could just be delayed, and delayed, and delayed again. Those self-driving cars are available and reliable everywhere, right? We’ll colonise Mars in our lifetimes, right? Right!? 

Tech companies love to make promises and assumptions about the future, and what they believe is possible with such a short timeline and limited technological capability. How else do you keep shareholders happy? How else do you convince investors to stick around? “Virtual reality will be in every home by 2025!” Meanwhile video games featuring virtual reality have had a slow uptake and are relatively lacklustre when it comes providing an immersive experience that feels like no other (unless you want to wave a lightsaber at objects thrown at you.)

Until the i Vision Dee and BMW are able to deliver on their promises by their 2025 launch, don’t get your hopes up. 

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