Finally, a product that makes me look like a house fly… or an airplane pilot (I am rooting for the latter). The MINI Augmented Vision was officially unveiled at Auto Shanghai 2015, and I was able to spend some good time with this interesting product. Of course, now without some skepticism on the design, which I will accept is a bit unconventional.
I can say I walked into the MINI booth with my doubts, but I could also see that this set of exceptionally-looking glasses would be able to cover my field of vision better. I found that this was the case, but what surprised me most was how comfortable to wear these glasses were.
Looking at my pictures wearing the MINI Augmented Vision glasses, I can’t help but recall the sensational film Pitch Black. The ressemblance is amazin, which may have something to do with the many years I spent working as a double for Vin Diesel:
All joking aside, though, let’s try and focus on what these glasses can or can not do.
MINI Augmented Vision specs
- Android 4.4
- 2.3 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor
- 2 GB of RAM
- 2 720p stereoscopic displays (16:9)
- 28-degree field of view
- 2 5MP cameras
- 1400 mAh battery
With a powerful Snapdragon 805 processor and an Adreno 420 GPU, this machine has what it takes to handle even the best mobile 3D games out there. Those 2 GB of RAM, 5 MP cameras and displays also make this quite the winner. Not to mention the battery, which carries three times the capacity of the Google Glass battery, and BMW promises it’s “perfectly adequate”. I couldn’t exactly kill the battery during my time at the booth, but based on what the developers told me and the specs the device carries, we can calculate an average of about 3-7 hours of continuous, heavy use.
The two stereoscopic HD displays are based on the so-called LCoS Technology (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), which consists of a silicon film, a layer of liquid crystals and an extremely thin glass. With a maximum contrast ratio of 1000:1, they see to it that you can see everything perfectly; even in bright sunlight, which is quite important, especially while driving.
The MINI glasses project images on the lenses from the perspective of the user. Hence, all the information moves along if you turn your head. To put it simply… if I look forward, through the windshield, I get navigation instructions. Looking to the side will display information about the objects outside, which are taken by external cameras (the objects).
Imagina taking a ride through the city and seeing an event poster. Augmented Vision can see this, grab the address from the image and navigate you straight to the place in hand… mind you, if that’s what you want to do. I honestly wouldn’t like to be provided information on every single poster.
You also get the practical features from your smartphones. If an SMS message comes in, you get an icon that displays this. A simple press on a steering wheel button will then have your MINI car reading the message out loud. This is not only clever, but it has honestly been the best implementation in the industry. Congratulations BMW!
The absolute highlight is the view to the side. The externally mounted cameras allows the driver to practically see through the door. This is so incredibly amazing and awesome that I would like to imagine more manufacturers will adopt it. This has to happen. The continuous safety this creates must not be underestimated. Not to mention, it makes parking a total breeze.
Operating the MINI Augmented Vision
Anyone who has played with Google Glass knows how smartphone-dependent smart glasses can be. You may be wondering how BMW dealt with this issue. Well, these glasses are completely self-sufficient, but also has a strong connection with your smartphone and car. The integrated MINI app runs both inside and outside of the car. It can be controlled with the steering wheel when connected to the car. Step out of the vehicle and you can use the glasses with the integrated controls on the upper-right side. These include a touchpad and 3 buttons.
By the way, those using the Augmented Vision headset outside the car can utilize a feature that helps you navigate back to their vehicle. Quite a handy feature in complext parking lots.
It’s “only” a concept
The MINI Augmented Vision works, and yes, the glasses work very well. At BMW, they have realized how smart glasses must be used, and that these are ideal for special applications that are executed only temporarily. The fact is it’s still just a prototype, a concept that will only ripen in the next few years.
“MINI Augmented Vision was developed as a research prototype to demonstrate the potential of the visionary AR glasses with vehicles. In the future, the system will be further developed and refined to make this vision a reality.” – Dr. Jörg Preißinger, Project Manager MINI Augmented Vision, BMW Group Research and Technology
Concept or not, I have seldom seen a prototype that was so damn well thought out. The glasses are not only part of a security concept, it is part of a vision for the car of the future, and here BMW demonstrates it would like to play a significant role.
Of course, there is still a lot to do. I think the power of the 805 is a bit overkill here. Qualcomm should clearly bring more appropriate SoCs to market. Even the Snapdragon 400 in most smartwatches behaves like a 10-cylinder in a MINI! There is a lot to do, even in terms of battery technology used.
Nevertheless, BMW and its partner, Qualcomm, are on the right track and that also applies for the very minimal and thoughtful interface. The Augmented Vision will not disturb, but accompany you on the road. It grants you information if you really need the information, and has no additional details or distractions.
This review was translated from a German article written by Sascha Pallenber at MobileGeeks.de.