Did BMW Just Invent the Virtual Future of Racing Sports and Driving Schools?

At the 2022 Web Summit event in Lisbon, Portugal, BMW unveiled a mixed-reality headset paired with a real-life M2 model. The experience is called “///M Mixed Reality,” and if this isn't just a one-off marketing thing, further down the line, it could be coming to a racing sport or driving school near you.
///M Mixed Reality 14 photos
Photo: BMW
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First of all, let’s see what mixed reality is all about. I'm sure many, if not all of you, have heard about augmented and virtual reality. In case anyone hasn't heard of mixed reality or MR yet, as you have probably already figured out by now, it’s a mix of augmented and virtual realities. Usually, this works by scanning the real world with cameras located in the headset itself while at the same time displaying a virtual video game-like experience on the screens in front of your eyes.

That’s exactly what this ///M Mixed Reality does. It scans the car and the track you’re driving on and recreates everything in real-time as a virtual custom track. How it looks depends on the hardware's power capability along with the designer’s imagination and choice. Maybe if the engineers are overflowing with creativity, they can even make more than one track design, and you could choose the one that tickles your fancy before you start a race.

The BMW M2 MR experience was developed in partnership with Epic Games, the creators of the almighty and unstoppable worldwide phenomenon, Fortnite. Inside the “real-life game,” let’s call it, you have to avoid virtual obstacles and collect coins. While you drive, the headset registers all your movements in real-time. As they put it, “the vehicle itself becomes the controller, in this case, the fastest controller in the world.”

In total, I have tens, if not over, 100 hours of VR game time. From my experience with VR driving games, I know one thing. That I get sick immediately when I turn the car one way but physically look another way, even on a NASCAR track. The last VR racing game I tried was Gran Turismo Sport, and when I was slowly, and I mean slowly, turning left... I immediately felt the need to... well, you know, grab the nearest bucket.

I brought this up because, most probably, I got sick when my brain knew I was sitting still, but it saw I was turning left inside a car. I'm sure the "poor guy" didn't know how to process what was going on and alerted me that something was wrong the best way it knew how. I mentioned this because having an MR headset while you're actually driving and not just simulating it might annihilate the getting sick part. Because your body would be in sync with what you see. Your brain would register every turn, bump, slip, acceleration, brake, and so on.

Obviously, I haven’t tried this experience, but I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that this is the real deal compared to just a standard VR game you'd play from your living room. Now, after researching this thing, my brain couldn't help but pop some questions into my head. Could this become an entirely new sport, where the Lewis Hamiltons of the world will collect coins in sci-fi scenarios? Could it be integrated into driving schools? Also, what do you see when you look at your mirrors inside the simulation? What processor is it running on? Because, to be honest, the graphics look really bad, even for a VR game?

What resolutions are the screens, and is the “screen door effect” still present? What refresh rate do the screens have? Could this be mounted on a dyno or hydraulic simulator? Or maybe putting it on a hydraulic system would ruin the real feel of it all. Who knows? I could go on all day with these nerdy questions. But while this certainly sounds promising, it could very well be just a one-off commercial stunt for the new BMW M2 model coming out in 2023.

To test if this will be true or not, a good indicator could be the mediatic presence or lack thereof of this MR technology after the M2 hits the streets. If we’ll see and hear more about this, then it might be a serious thing. If not, then BMW has a really good marketing department worthy of praise for having a presence outside the motoring world.

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About the author: Codrin Spiridon
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Codrin just loves American classics, from the 1940s and ‘50s, all the way to the muscle cars of the '60s and '70s. In his perfect world, we'll still see Hudsons and Road Runners roaming the streets for years to come (even in EV form, if that's what it takes to keep the aesthetic alive).
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