Nissan wants to turn car windshields into portals to a virtual world. At CES 2019, the Japanese automaker will demonstrate what it calls “invisible-to-visible” (I2V) tech. While the name makes it sound like witchcraft, I2V is just a way to overlay information from a car’s onboard sensors, as well as the cloud, onto the driver’s field of view. Think of it as augmented reality (AR) on a larger scale.
I2V relies on a system called Omni-Sensing to act as a hub for the relevant data, which is organized and displayed as graphics floating around relevant objects — just like in a video game. In fact, the entire platform was developed by Unity Technologies, which started out in the gaming business. Drivers can also connect to what Nissan calls the “Metaverse,” a virtual environment shared with other users. It allows people to appear inside the car as virtual avatars, according to Nissan.
This tech has many possible uses, Nissan claims. If it’s raining outside, I2V could project an image of sunny weather inside the car. Drivers could call on local guides to get information about the areas they’re driving through, or driving coaches to help improve their skills. Cars could also use the tech to warn drivers of upcoming hazards like poor visibility or irregular road surfaces, according to Nissan, or suggest alternate routes to get around traffic.
However, it’s unclear how all of this would work in the real world. At CES, Nissan will demonstrate I2V using a mocku-p of a car interior and AR headsets. Users will be guided through specific scenarios, such as finding an open parking space at a busy mall and chasing a professional driver avatar on a racetrack. But it’s unlikely that real drivers will ever be allowed to wear AR headsets behind the wheel, and Nissan employees won’t always be on hand to explain how everything works.
Even if it can be packaged in a way that works in the real world, I2V seems just plain distracting. Drivers have enough trouble paying attention without their crazy uncles beaming themselves into the car to talk politics. This tech seems better-suited to future self-driving cars, which Nissan and other automakers are working to usher in.
Updated on January 5, 2019: Added mention of Unity Technologies, which developed the I2V tech platform for Nissan.