You won’t need to depend on the navigation anymore because the AR-powered Head-Up Display (HUD) of the car will show you holographic display directions to get to your destination. This will be powered by WayRay, a Swiss developer of a holographic augmented reality technology for internet-connected cars, freshly invested by China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba.
Topping up to its effort made in connected cars in the recent years, Alibaba Group has invested US$ 18 million in WayRay’s series B along with its existing investors, announced on March 14th. With the funding, the Swiss company has entered into a partnership with Banma Technologies to develop a new AR car infotainment system which capable of delivering contextually relevant information to drivers and engaging entertainment for passengers.
“WayRay’s making the windscreen a new medium for information. The futuristic in-car infotainment system is the first to use color holographic technology (they were previously only green). Furthermore, the system provides a smart driving assistant that collects your driving stats and patterns, offering up a gamified system of rewards,” said Mary Lapuk, head of communications at WayRay’s R&D base in Russia told TechNode.
WayRay has its own R&D center and prototyping factory and specializes in the development and production of transparent holographic displays based on HOE (holographic optical elements). Navion, WayRay’s first AR navigation system is the key to bringing this AR system. It is a standalone unit that uses holography to visualize timely and useful driving information directly in front of the driver’s eyes.
“Navion eliminates the need to look away from the road while driving, refocusing your eyes and helps to reduce distraction while driving, making your trip safer,” Mary says.
In 2017, the company plans to release a consumer version of Navion and to sign contracts with major global car manufacturers to implement their infotainment system. The company refused to disclose the mark and the model of the car which will be developed in partnership with Banma. However, the company mentioned that the retail sales of smart driving assistant “Element” will start within a couple of months in the US and China to analyze different driving styles.
“WayRay is a pioneer in transparent HOE of such large sizes, which act as virtual optical elements (diffraction gratings). This allows the creation of optical systems that deliver ‘true AR’ virtual images that appear in the distance – all within a small optic footprint,” Mary adds.
The company has also invested in research and development to further its material science expertise – creating materials for ultra-thin films, for example – and created software for the design of optical systems to record the diffraction patterns inside polymers.
Alibaba’s plan to “Open Sesame” your car
Ultimately Alibaba wants to get into future cars to enable you to “open sesame!” your car, that is, to voice control your car. And this effort is done through Banma Technologies, an independent startup invested by Alibaba Group and China’s largest automaker SAIC Motor, dedicated to making developments in internet-connected cars.
WayRay will work closely with this consortium to create an advanced AR HMI that integrates augmented reality navigation, driving assistant notifications, a virtual dashboard, and much more. The new system will be built into one of Banma’s 2018 car models, turning it into the world’s first vehicle in production with a holographic AR HUD display.
The global connected car market is expected to reach US$ 180.3 billion by 2022, and Alibaba is making steady efforts to get the grip of the market.
Alibaba revealed their YunOS-powered Roewe RX5 car November last year. Three models of Roewe cars have been launched in conjunction with Banma, committed to empowering the vehicle via data, computation and innovative mobility services. At the Single’s day event held in Shenzhen, Alibaba demonstrated how their connected cars listen to driver’s orders to turn the music or air conditioning on and book movie tickets. It can also direct a drone to navigate the running car and film the scenery around it.
The video below shows their smart car demo, starting at 2’33”.