The Facebook/Meta transformation has us all scrambling to understand the “metaverse,” and how it might include/involve/affect vehicles. Well, this WayRay Holograktor concept car is pitched as the first car designed for the metaverse; more specifically, to allow occupants to experience the metaverse in motion without wearing clumsy goggles. Behold the augmented reality car, its interior reimagined as a giant Oculus headset. And lest you fret about distraction, everybody onboard can be a passenger, thanks to another novel concept: 5G remote driving.
The Augmented-Reality Car—Greenhouse as VR Headset
The key party trick Swiss supplier WayRay is presenting here is its Deep Reality Display technology. Think of it as a head-up display on mega-steroids. DRD is comprised of four main elements: There’s a compact laser unit capable of sending red, green, and blue light beams into a picture-generating unit (PGU) that incorporates a new type of optical transmitting system capable of projecting an image four times the size of today’s biggest HUD images—25 degrees wide by 8 degrees high, as measured from the viewer’s eye.
Together, these components consume just 3 liters of space—down from the 20 liters required by those biggest, brightest HUDs. When this laser light hits a special diffractive Holographic Optical Element—a photopolymer layer laminated into the windshield and side glass—a holographic image is selectively reflected into the viewer’s eyes. And unlike with systems that rely on reflecting a fraction of the generated light back to the viewer’s eyes, these holographic images are not constrained to a fixed distance in front of the viewer. They can appear at any distance, they’re not washed out by sunlight, and they appear much brighter (its luminance measures 12,000 candelas per square meter). The laminated material covers the entire glass, so the images can be projected anywhere, and the scrap rate in manufacturing is expected to be considerably less than with wedge films.
The fourth element is WayRay’s AR Rendering Engine, which processes data from sensors, cameras, and map info to precisely overlay the holographic imagery onto and around the actual scenery that’s visible out the windows.
Four laser/PGU units are required to render a 180-degree field of view—two fit in the dash and two for the side windows are located in the ceiling (this explains the appendage on the roof, which WayRay calls “the Shrimp”). The rendering engine continuously adjusts brightness to suit ambient light conditions. Power consumption is less than 50 watts. And while this 180-degree view system would obviously cost way more than a typical HUD, the price of a smaller display covering only the driver’s field of view is expected to fall to near parity with today’s systems.
5G Remote Driving Leverages Autonomy Sensor Suite
One of WayRay’s big ideas is to pitch the Holograktor as a ride-hailing vehicle in which rides are subsidized by holographic advertising pitched at the passengers. This could be done to some extent with a live driver in the left front seat, but the experience could be more immersive (distracting) and “meta” if nobody onboard had to worry about driving. The idea here is to leverage the full suite of autonomy sensors and send that data to a remote driver via a robust, low latency 5G or satellite internet communications link. Such a driver would likely be sitting in a gaming-style cockpit (perhaps anywhere in the world) with 180-degree screens depicting the Holograktor’s immediate surroundings. The car would largely drive itself, but with the remote driver constantly monitoring conditions and always ready to make a judgment call in one of those “edge cases” that are proving so difficult to program computers to handle.
The Four-Door Three-Seat Hatchback
The WayRay Holograktor’s interior and exterior design were penned by Sasha Selipanov, whose design credits include work on the Lamborghini Huracán, the Genesis Essentia concept, the Bugatti Chiron, and the Koenigsegg Gemera. For this project, Selipanov and WayRay founder Vitaly Ponomarev aimed for “Russian constructivism form language,” with triangular forms evocative of prisms. “It is a light-ray aesthetic that comes with the triangularity and the prism-like effect, which is just perfectly appropriate for a car built to highlight holography,” adds Selipanov.
While the general hatchback shape is vaguely reminiscent of a Hyundai Ioniq 5, its proportions are unique. It’s the length of a Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class SUV, but it’s as wide as a Chrysler Pacifica minivan. This allows the front seats to be separated by almost 20 inches to afford the central rear “throne” occupant an unobstructed view of the virtual metaverse being holographically rendered out the windshield.
Note that the front doors open up and forward, butterfly style, while the rear-hinged rear doors open back and down, taking part of the roof with them to make it easier to walk in to that central rear seat. Another reason for the single rear seat is data suggesting 80 percent of Uber rides carry one person only.
Few mechanical details of the Holograktor have been shared, except that a single electric motor will propel it from 0 to 62 mph in 3.9 seconds, and its battery will provide 375 miles of range. There are no firm numbers yet for power, torque, or battery capacity.
What’s Next for Holograktor?
Having made its debut at the IAA auto show in Munich in September, WayRay is now using the Holograktor concept to showcase its Deep Reality Display technology to prospective automakers, but founder Ponomarev notes that the car has been engineered and designed to be production feasible. We’re not holding our breath for that happening, but we wouldn’t be surprised to find virtual Holograktors for sale in the metaverse. Start saving your Bitcoin and Ethereum.
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