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BMW Has a Car That Talks Like KITT and Changes Color to Match Your Outfit

Best of CES: This AI-powered concept car with attitude showcases a vivid, color-changing E Ink wrap and an AR display that fills the entire windshield.

Meet Dee, the concept car that wants to be your friend -- and BMW's vision for the future of the way we'll interact with vehicles in both the physical and digital worlds. 

The BMW i Vision Dee (or Digital Emotional Experience) concept is a compact electric sedan with hints of BMW design hallmarks -- the double kidney grille, Hofmeister kink and a very 2002-esque three-box design, for example. The simplified aesthetic leaves a lot of visual white space in the concept's inert state, presenting a sort of blank slate for the digital elements of the design to stand out. When the driver approaches the vehicle, the concept awakens with biometric sensors authenticating the owner's identity.

The kidney grille integrates E Ink displays that give the Dee animated eyes (or, as BMW calls them, "phygital icons" due to their dual physical and digital nature) that move and change as you interact with its onboard AI assistant. Yes, you can talk to the Dee and not just when you're inside the car; it will listen and respond to commands from curbside, as well as remotely via a smartphone app. The assistant will learn about you as a driver and make proactive suggestions that appear on the infotainment system, serving as a digital copilot of sorts.

Where other digital assistants like Alexa or Siri are matter-of-fact in tone, BMW imagines Dee as a sassy gal. During the debut at BMW's CES keynote, the assistant's cheerful, sometimes sarcastic personality was highlighted through very human interactions with BMW Chairman Oliver Zipse, Knight Rider's KITT, Herbie the Love Bug and even the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. (The voice for the presentation was provided by a human actress behind the scenes; AI tech isn't quite advanced enough yet and BMW is merely demonstrating where it wants to go.)

The Vision Dee's E Ink eyes (and a bit of trim on the side windows highlighting the Hofmeister kink) are familiar monochromatic displays -- similar to the E Ink iX Flow concept that bowed at last year's CES -- but the rest of the concept's exterior skin is covered with new full-color E Ink technology that can instantly shift between up to 32 colors. Divided into 240 individually controlled segments, it allows you to generate patterns and multicolor schemes on the fly to customize your ride. BMW says that E Ink's low-power power consumption (it only draws current when changing states) and high daylight visibility makes it ideal, even for battery electric cars. 

The Dee was joined onstage by a pair of famously sentient fictional cars: Knight Rider's KITT and Herbie the Love Bug.

BMW

Inside, the cabin's design remains simple, with a "white canvas" theme that allows the cockpit's digital elements to stand out. There are no physical displays, very few buttons and a restrained use of materials throughout. I'm pleased to see that driving is still at the forefront of BMW's vision for the future. The Vision Dee has a steering wheel with a vertical spoke design that allows a more ergonomic grip of the rim where the driver's hands most naturally fall. The wheel retains "phygital" haptic thumb controls which, along with voice commands, are the primary way to control the tech.

The concept has no dashboard screen because the entire windshield is a display. The BMW i Vision Dee has a full-width, AR head-up display with five levels of immersion that the driver can choose from and a touch-sensitive Mixed Reality Slider on the dashboard. 

Crank the Mixed Reality Slider to max and the windshield is filled with information or even fully virtual worlds.

BMW

Level 1 is the least intrusive mode, limiting displayed information to a thin row along the bottom of the windshield with just the essentials needed for driving -- speed, limited navigation information, and so on. The sort of things you'd find in the instrument cluster if the Dee actually had one. Stepping up to Levels 2 and 3 increases the size of the HUD, making room for more stuff like communication information or more detailed navigation. Level 4 takes up even more visual real estate for functions like augmented reality navigation that overlays your route on the view of the road.

Mixed Reality Levels 1 through 4 are designed around the driver -- it has a steering wheel after all. BMW expects that most of the time a human will be driving the Dee, rather than the other way around. And so even as the immersion level ramps up, these modes are designed with the automaker's "hands on the wheel, eyes on the road" philosophy in mind.

Color-changing E Ink panels allow the Dee to cycle mix and match its 240 individually controlled segments and 32 available colors.

BMW

At Mixed Reality Level 5, the virtual world can almost completely obscure the real world, taking up the entire windshield and dimming the rest of the windows. You can view digital environments or make conference calls rather than staring at the car ahead in traffic. This level of immersion is designed with autonomous driving in mind, but I could see this tech being used for a goggles-free version of the  BMW M Mixed Reality racing simulator

BMW has no plans to build the i Vision Dee, but it hints that we could be seeing the technologies highlighted here in production cars in the near future.

This product has been selected as one of the best products of CES 2023. Check out the other Best of CES 2023 award winners.  

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