We put the MINI Augmented Vision goggles to the test

We get hands-on with MINI’s Augmented Vision virtual reality glasses at the Shanghai show – is this the next big thing?

While other manufacturers were launching new cars at the 2015 Shanghai Motor Show, MINI’s focus was on technology. It brought along its new ‘Augmented Vision’ system – a pair of hi-tech goggles to you and I – designed to offer seamless navigation from your front door to your final destination, make the sides of the car see-through (I’ll explain later) and project other vital information directly into your field of vision. It might sound like a twist on Google Glass, only with bigger and sillier-looking headwear, but Dr Joerg Preissinger, the project leader, insists it’s quite different. “It’s very different because it’s basically like a head-up display, but with a much larger field of view,” he explained. “There are two types on information displayed, the first type is fixed and moves when you move your head, the second is fixed to the outside world, so it highlights a parking space or a turning, and stays there even when your head moves.”

It’s the latter, developed with Qualcomm and using is ‘Vuforia’ tracking technology that’s seriously impressive, creating pop-up digital annotations to the road ahead on the simulator we tried. Landmarks are labelled as you drive past, arrows whoosh around corners in 3D and free parking spaces glow blue. And that’s not even the clever stuff.

Using a series of forward and rear-facing cameras, neatly integrated into a badge above the front wheel arch and the wing mirrors, it can project an image of the outside when you look at the door. Turn your head to the right, for example, and you can see exactly how close the front wheel is to the kerb.

 Once inside the car the glasses connect automatically, transferring any navigation data and letting you answer questions – such as whether you want a message read out loud – by using the buttons on the steering wheel. Because the technology built into the glasses, with a forward-facing camera and a Snapdragon processor, is basically the same as a tablet there are some clever functions outside the car, too. Look at a poster for a music gig and it will tell you whether it’s sold out or not and offer the venue as a destination. Don’t expect to see them on the options list anytime soon though. “When the technology arrives is not a decision for MINI, it’s up to the electronics industry,” said Preissinger. “A lot of companies are working on such technology, but who knows when it will arrive. When it does, expect the glasses to be smaller and lighter, too.”

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