Virtual reality is coming to the passenger seat near you, at least as long as you own an Audi vehicle with the brand’s newest operating system, anyway. Audi spin-off Holoride announced this week that it will start offering the Pioneer Bundle for just under $700, which includes an HTC VIVE Flow headset, an 8BitDo Pro 2 gamepad, and a subscription. one year Holoride platform, for those who own a 2023 or newer Audi (with MIB 3 system). I got a quick glimpse of the eerie in-vehicle virtual reality experience in my LA neighborhood, and despite a tendency to motion sickness, I managed to play a video game and watch a bit of Netflix before to pick up.
Like my cohort, who tried out the Holoride experience at CES in 2019, I’m not a VR enthusiast, although I’m fully on board (and regularly use) AR glasses for work; the Nreal AR glasses I use have made all the difference when I have to type 10,000 words in a single day, greatly reducing computer fatigue and repetitive motion pain. So when Holoride engineers strapped the HTC Vive Flow headset to my face, it wasn’t an unfamiliar sensation, but it was a lot more visually restrictive than I’m comfortable with, especially on the back seat of a moving vehicle. The team handed me a familiar gamepad, and we were off, despite my nerves about falling ill within minutes in the back seat of the BMW X5 the team was using for demo purposes.
When you first strap on, you adjust the eyepieces of the HTC Vive Flow headset the same way you would adjust binocular diopters. I don’t wear glasses except when reading or working on the computer, but I had trouble finding a reasonably clear image in the glasses. I don’t wear my goggles when wearing the Nreals, but in retrospect I probably should have used them under the relatively lightweight Holoride headset, as the images never really got very clear.
I tried cloudbreaker, a video game in which you pilot a robot named Skyjack through floating debris and AI sentries, collecting points and killing sentries as you go. When the car stopped, the movement in the VR space around me slowed down. When the car accelerated, sentries and scum came towards me much faster. When the car turned, my perspective changed without delay.
The movement of the vehicle was reflected in real time in the movement of scrap, floating pillars and sentries in the game, which was developed by Schell Games. No matter which direction I looked, I could see the play space stretching out in front of me (or behind me), thanks to GPS data from the car. The mapping system gives about a square mile of data to the headset (when you have GPS connectivity), according to the engineers I spoke with, so it can create these virtual worlds that match the physical world to prevent or mitigate motion sickness.
Since all the data is processed by the glasses, the visuals aren’t as stunning as some other non-car-based VR experiences, but they’re still vivid and three-dimensional enough to read text and see details from some of them. characters.
cloudbreaker is quite intuitive. Drag something towards you, slash it multiple times with a sword, or zap it with laser beams, and you get points. Don’t crash into a floating pinnacle or get hurt too much by sentries, and the game will continue as you drive. In fact, I liked it so much that after I died, I restarted and played the game a second time.
I was surprised at how easy it was to dive straight into the immersive experience, even though I was being driven in the back seat of an SUV. My brain and body had no problem adjusting to the movement, and as long as I stayed focused on the gameplay, I didn’t feel any nausea. I noticed on the bumpy, slow roads around my neighborhood that there was a slightly disembodied feeling I got every time we drove over a bump or a pothole. The game didn’t replicate this type of vertical movement very well, although it never made me too uncomfortable.
The Netflix and YouTube experience
Everything changed when the engineers suggested I switch to YouTube and Netflix. The engineer next to me paired an Android phone with the headset and showed me how to access both platforms. Once there, I picked a random YouTube video to watch briefly, and for me the experience was almost immediately uncomfortable.
The video screen is small and centered in the middle of your view, with a moving background in a soothing sky color rolling behind the screen to help your body adapt to the movement of the car. After a few seconds of watching a short video, which was streamed from this paired Android phone to my headphones, I started feeling dizzy with the onset of motion sickness. I quickly switched to Netflix to get a feel for what that experience was like, and the motion sickness got worse. The more I looked, the worse it got.
One thing I noted before removing the headset is that the lighter background that replicates vehicle motion can make details in darker videos difficult to see. It’s a bit like watching a TV placed in front of a window, which can wash out colors and blur details.
Video game and video audio is passed through the arms of the glasses for demonstration purposes, which provides the ability to hear other passengers in the car, but does not necessarily give the best audio experience. You can link HTC Vive Flow to other Bluetooth headsets to improve sound.