Ready Player One: Mini’s Mixed Reality Insanity

“Are we in the future? This feels like the future!” These thoughts buzzed through my head the moment Mini’s vivaciously vivid world appeared before me. While my hands, feet, and the entirety of my electric Mini’s real-life interior remained unchanged in my line of sight, everything outside the car’s windscreen, side windows, sunroof, and rear glass transformed into a groovy, trippy mish-mash of technicolour shapes and objects running alongside a smooth, curvy track for me and my Mini (named Jim) to traverse.

No, I wasn’t high on hallucinogens. But as I crossed from one colourful dreamscape to the next, it sure felt like it. This is Mini Mixed Reality, the culmination of a two-year (and still ongoing) project that merges real-world driving environments with a virtual playground. Using a VR and augmented reality headset, along with numerous cameras, sensors, gyroscopes, and a ton of computing power, it tracks our car’s movements and inputs, reflecting them in the virtual world with barely any latency.

Pushing too fast into a corner and going wide? You’ll see that happen in the virtual world too. With proper depth perception, you can even lean over the side and gaze out the world outside from any angle. It gets rather uncanny, though the immersion drops slightly when the rough gravel surfaces of our real-world track don’t quite match up with the smooth roads of our Mixed Reality Insanity. Nevertheless, it was a wild experience that really needed to be felt.

So, what’s the end goal for this gigantic video game? Well, we were told, it’s all in the name of fun! While it does seem like a dream job given the limitless freedom such a project entails, the possibilities for real-world applications are promising. Imagine drivers being transported to numerous race tracks or taking on real-time driver’s training programs from anywhere in the world. They could even see actual racing and braking lines overlaid onto a real-life racing track. With computing power and headsets continuously improving, the practical future applications for such technology seem limitless.

The future is now? It sure feels like it, thank you Mini for bringing this into our world and I can’t wait to see what’s coming next from their Mixed Reality department.

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