BMW took to the stage at CES, previously known as the Consumer Electronics Show, held annually in Las Vegas, to unveil the i Vision Dee concept car.The name Dee refers to “digital emotional experience”. The retro futuristic electric car provides a glimpse into where BMW is headed and with i Vision Dee, hopes to create a stronger bond between man and machine.

BMW believes future digital functions will go beyond the level of voice control and the driver assistance system that we are familiar with today.

In his keynote speech, chief executive Oliver Zipse said, “Dee embodies the next level of human machine interaction, a concept that cannot be simply dismissed as science fiction because it will inspire our Neue Klasse.”

BMW’s neue klasse or new class of vehicles in 2025 will feature some of the innovations shown such as a colour changing E Ink exterior, a full width advanced head-up display (HUD) that can take over the windscreen, and a voice assistant that shows emotion.

“We are showcasing what is possible when hardware and software merge,” said Zipse, adding this allowed the company to exploit the full potential of digitalisation to transform the car into an intelligent companion. “That is the future for automotive manufacturers.”

At CES 2022, BMW unveiled the iX Flow in a black and white E Ink version but this year, i Vision Dee supports full colour in up to 32 colours. It features 240 E Ink panels that are individually configurable to create patterns in different shades within seconds using an app.

The i Vision Dee shows nine different facial expressions on its closed kidney grille, and while talking to the driver, Dee can express moods such as astonishment, joy, or approval. It uses natural language to communicate and makes use of graphics and lights to welcome you.

The advanced HUD blends virtual and real worlds to create augmented reality functions. The projection across the entire windscreen can only be used once it is activated. It may sound a bit too futuristic, but BMW says it will make it to production by 2025.

The car also debuted a mixed reality slider that takes you through different worlds in five steps. It uses BMW’s Shy-Tech touch sensors, which lets the driver decide how much digital content they want to be immersed in.

I was allocated 10 minutes with the car, but personalisation began before I got in. An avatar was created to look like me, which was projected onto the window as a welcome screen, and the doors opened automatically when I approached it. It is kitted with sensors that can register the identity and position of the person and reacts accordingly.

It was a sensory experience that incorporated vibrations, sound and virtual touch panels for things like closing the door, adjusting the seat, and powering up the vehicle with the mixed reality slider.

The slider progresses to increase the amount of information and visuals you have access to on the HUD and starts off minimalistic from driving related information, gradually going up to accessing social media, augmented reality projections — like red lines around a cyclist in front of you — and ultimately entering the metaverse.

At this point, the dimmed windows will fade out the real world, and the virtual world appears across the windscreen and side window panels. I felt like I had entered another dimension; it was trippy, futuristic and interactive. There’s always a form of sensory feedback when you do something, so you know it was successful.

The concept EV featured an intentional reductive design inside and out as the technology was the focus, and in a way, to make it come across as more human.

Brace yourselves, BMW cars of the future will be getting emotional.

BMW previews operating system 9

Alongside its CES reveal, BMW also previewed its next-generation operating system 9, the successor to OS 8 that debuted on the iX. It will be built on Android that allows for third party app integration. It also has Amazon Alexa integration for supported markets.

The open-source platform is called Android Automotive OS (AAOS), and not to be confused with Google Automotive Services (GAS) that is being used on Volvo’s electric XC40, or Android Auto that is like Apple CarPlay, which brings up a separate interface when you pair a smartphone to a supported vehicle.

GAS is a licensed product that gives Google access to customer’s data, whereas AAOS is open source and allows BMW to build on it, with no customer data access to Google.

The company says one automotive operating system does not exist for infotainment, advanced driver assist systems and real-time driving functions, and its next-gen platform will allow all of this to be incorporated in one place.

BMW OS 9 brings a new interface to the home screen that shows everything important at one glance. It will support a 3D map based layout with flexible touch buttons and will be content driven.

Stephan Durach, the senior vice-president for Connected Company Development at BMW Germany, said privacy was the highest priority for the company. “It’s really important that we have our own data set, which we keep to ourselves to protect the privacy of our customers.”

BMW lets users choose how much data they want to share but adds that sharing your data won’t be necessary to operate its cars.

“It took us a long time to figure out what’s the best way to move forward, and together with the Amazon guys, we found a pretty good solution where everything car related around our product stays in the BMW,” Durach said.

If you want to access an Amazon service such as your shopping basket, you need to open up access, but this is a decision made by the customer, and it is made known that your data is out of BMW’s control, he added.

BMW’s OS 9 will not support the Google Play Store but instead will use Faurecia’s Aptoide App Store. The independent Android app store is scalable, supports over the air updates, and open for any future extensions of its application offering.

Aptoide has a variety of apps that include navigation, music on demand, audiobooks, video streaming, gaming, weather, electric vehicle charging and parking.

BMW’s Android-based OS 9 or iDrive 9 will roll out in 2023 starting with the X1 produced from March onwards.

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