Nov 2, 2022 - Technology

Startup puts VR in the backseat of a car

Ina Fried

Image: Holoride

Using a virtual reality headset while riding in a car sounds like a recipe for nausea, but one startup is betting it's an experience people will pay for. Holoride, an Audi spin-off, is launching a $700 software and hardware combo Wednesday that synchronizes games and videos to the motion of a car.

Why it matters: Virtual reality is still searching for its market. The car may sound like an unlikely place for it, but there are a lot of teenagers being driven around by their parents out there, and Holoride thinks they might be up for a VR adventure.

How it works: Holoride gets data from the car via Bluetooth and uses the turns and twists of the road as action within its built-in game or, when video is playing, to stabilize the image.

  • Most of the cost of Holoride is for the included HTC Vive Flow headset and a game controller, with the rest going toward a year's worth of Holoride's service.
  • To work with Holoride, cars need to share certain driving data. For now, that's supported on a range of Audi models, but the goal is for the system to work with a wider variety of car models. On the phone side, the system is compatible with most recent Android phones.
  • Holoride will be available in mid-November in Germany and the company expects to launch it in the U.S. in early 2023.

First person: I had a chance to try out Holoride last week and found it quite comfortable. It was entertaining to see the gameplay shift as the car made turns around my neighborhood, though I'm not sure how long I would be interested in playing "Cloudbreakers," the lone first-person shooter game that the company has customized to incorporate the car's motion.

Between the lines: Company officials said they expect the main use initially will be watching videos being mirrored from the Android phone.

  • Because the headset is adjusting its display based on the motion of the car, Holoride's executives say video-viewing on the device is less likely to make one carsick than reading or watching video on a standard smartphone.
  • Plus, the video image appears a lot larger on the VR headset than on a phone.
  • "This enables you to have a 180-inch TV in the back of a car," said CEO Nils Wollny.
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