Volkswagen has plopped a strange, spherical, futuristic car simulator in the middle of shopping malls. It’s called the 4DX and it looks like a Beetle crossed with the escape pod from 2001. To actually give shoppers a taste of how driving this beast into the singularity might feel, it comes equipped with the zSight VR headset by Sensics, which, to quote the press release, creates “a journey of the senses, that reinvents the way you feel the to drive a car” (sic). I’m not sure what that means, but apparently it’s so awesome that it scrambles your ability to form proper sentences.
The interesting thing is that Sensics got its start in the virtual reality space in the late-90s, when they were commissioned by an unnamed major car company to create a head-mounted display. The purpose initially wasn’t to simulate flying through cyber-worlds, but to assist with the process of designing car interiors faster.
All of which serves as a great example of the commercial adoption of new technology. While it’s tempting to think that there are strict lines between engineering, advertising, and the arts, we know better these days: look at your iPhone. We see this all the time with game engines that enable beautiful spaces of play, or AR marketing campaigns that one-up the AR games on portable systems. It’s interesting to see VR in its inchoate forms get in the mix.