Killing time with Batman during an autonomous ride in a self-driving BMW.
This past weekend the annual AT&T SHAPE conference returned to Hollywood, CA, filling the Warner Bros. Studio Tour lot with the latest in 5G-enabled technology, cutting-edge interactive exhibits, and—of course—dozens of live panels featuring some of the biggest names in entertainment technology.
The two-day event was packed with both VR & AR technologies, including a brief, but engaging live activation version of Magic Leap’s Game of Thrones: The Dead Must Die, as well as several smaller, but equally interesting offerings, such as a unique two-person Whack-A-Mole-type experience designed to demonstrate the effects of visual latency in VR.
What captured my attention the most throughout the 5G-focused event, however, was Warner Bros. and Intel’s self-driving car featuring a Batman-themed backseat immersive experience. For those of you unfamiliar with this one-of-a-kind project, this past January Warner Bros. and Intel announced their collaboration on a Batman-themed immersive experience designed to entertain passengers sitting in the rear of a self-driving 2019 BMW X5. As we previously reported, the 270-degree experience features moving graphics displayed on the windows of the vehicle, a large screen TV, mobile device compatibility, immersive audio, as well as sensory and haptic feedback.
I was initially skeptical of the concept, doubting its overall viability as an entertainment alternative in the presence of smartphones and tablets. However, after being given the chance to try out a brief demonstration of the experience myself while at the conference, I feel as though I may have been too quick to judge.
First, I was partnered up with a fellow event-goer and handed a smartphone device that had already been paired to the vehicle. As we approached the car with smartphone in-hand, the program immediately detected our presence, upon which a message appeared on the outside of the passenger window welcoming back the user (in this case the smartphones user was named Oscar); a fairly simple feature, I know, but one that would set the tone for the rest of the experience.
Once inside our vehicle, a large flatscreen TV began rising from the floor, after which our personal AI assistant, represented as Batman’s longtime butler Alfred, introduced us to the experience. Once we were “on-route,” a Batman graphic comic accompanied by intense cinematic music began to play on the TV in front us; meanwhile, two projectors mounted above both passenger-side doors began to display moving images of Gotham City on our windows, giving the illusion that we were actually driving down its crime-ridden streets while simultaneously immersing us further in the comic.
At one point our smartphone guided us towards some recommended content, which eventually led to us watching a trailer for Aquaman and purchasing a few tickets at our local theater (as a demonstration). After our purchase, we jumped straight back into the action and were once again immersed in the dirty confines of Gotham City.
Suddenly, the comic stops and Alfred instructs us of a new route to our destination that will avoid an upcoming accident. We accept the adjusted directions via the tablet placed in the middle of the seats and continue our comic, using the paired smartphone device to swipe through panels, as well as access additional information regarding the story and its creation.
Several seconds later we are interrupted once again by Alfred, this time warning us of another vehicle which has come within dangerous proximity to ours. Intel’s Responsibility-Sensitive Safety (RSS) framework is able to provide a 360-degree safety-monitoring zone around the vehicle, informing passengers of potential threats. During this time our tablet, which up to this point had been displaying our route via GPS, now showed a live feed from the outside of our car, allowing us to keep track of the swervy-suzanne to our left. Once we “arrived” at our destination, Alfred informed us of our successful journey, pausing the experience and lowering the screen in front of us.
Initially, I questioned the necessity of such a complex and specific entertainment system in self-driving vehicles. Mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, already provide so much distraction that a dedicated immersive system such as this seemed superfluous. However, after seeing just how fluid and intuitive the experience was first-hand, I now see the potential. From the way the vehicle greets you as you approach the door, to the speed at which the action begins once seated, the experience does everything it can to hold your undivided attention from the instant you sit down, to the very last second before your arrival.
Similar to how you might stay in your car to finish a song even though you’ve already parked, Warner Bros. and Intel’s backseat technology will have you sitting in front of your destination saying “just one more page” for hours.
Featured Image Credit: Getty Images for AT&T SHAPE