Playing VR games in the back seat of a moving car feels like a motion sickness disaster. And yet, Holoride has found a way to make it work and is now selling its first VR entertainment packages to customers in Germany, with expansion into the US market slated for early next year.
I had the chance to test the program last week in New York. Sitting in the back seat of an Audi SUV, I was wearing an HTC Vive Flow headset as the Holoride team picked me up from my office in Manhattan and drove me around the East Village neighborhood for about 20 minutes. .
The demo was for a game called Cloudbreaker, where I was transported to a battlefield in the sky to shoot enemy spaceships, passing tall buildings that look like ancient ruins sticking out of the clouds. The headset was connected via Bluetooth to the car, with the game collecting real-time data on acceleration, braking, steering and GPS location – all so that the virtual world could match the way the car was moving.
So when the pilot turned, my boat turned. And it was timed in a way that thankfully meant my stomach didn’t turn over.
You can see my reactions and how it all works in the video embedded above. As someone who easily gets motion sickness every time I look at my phone in a taxi, the game didn’t feel bad to me – again, my game demo didn’t last very long. It reminded me of a theme park motion simulator, where the on-screen action matched every movement of my vehicle.
It was more comfortable if I looked forward most of the time. If I looked left when my driver was turning right, it would take me to a sick town.
The Holoride team also gave me a demo of a feature that lets you watch Netflix or YouTube videos in the headset, with a movie screen that kind of floats in a VR landscape that matches the movement of the car . But it was a ban for me – it quickly triggered bad feelings, so I took off the helmet. I wasn’t digging while watching the video. Take me back to the games.
Holoride is based in Germany and is a spin-off from Audi. The first Holoride demo was revealed at the CES 2019 tech show in Las Vegas. The company has launched some early experiments to test this with the general public, including working with Universal CityWalk in Hollywood to take guests on a ride with the Bride of Frankenstein to find her love. But Wednesday marks the first time Holoride’s technology has been sold directly to the public so they can experience it wherever they go.
Holoride CEO and co-founder Nils Wollny explained to me how the software does more than just match left and right turns. The VR world loads differently depending on where you are, matching your actual landscape. A mountain in the game can be a building in real life. And a dip in the landscape can be a place where the driver could potentially turn.
The Holoride experience is currently sold as a package. For 699 euros in Germany (and Wollny says the price should be similar for the US, costing $699 at launch next year), you get the HTC Vive Flow VR headset, an 8BitDo Pro 2 game controller, and a one-year subscription to the Holoride platform of software and games – and at first it is only compatible with new Audi cars.
It remains to be seen how big that content library will be after this first year, when Holoride plans to charge a $20 monthly subscription to access its content. The company says the price will be if you pay for the whole year upfront.
It’s worth noting that even if the Holoride content doesn’t take off, the Vive Flow headset and game controller that comes in the package will still work like any VR headset. It is not locked to the car.
Holoride will have to integrate the concept into the Holoride software so that it works on several types of helmets and is compatible with several car systems. Could we soon hear about it with other types of cars? CEO Wollny said we can expect more Holoride news to be revealed in January at CES 2023.