Car Trek: Honda Brings Science Fiction to Life with Augmented Reality Display

by Ken Brown

A Honda scientist speaking at our annual GPU Technology Conference illustrated a vision of the future of driving that looked like a scene from ‘Minority Report.’

Victor Ng-Thow-Hing, of the Honda Research Institute, in Silicon Valley, showed early designs of augmented reality displays that seem to “paint” imagery on the driver’s windshield to aid navigation and reduce accidents.

Ng-Thow-Hing said elderly drivers often have issues judging the speed of oncoming vehicles. So, the Honda team developed a design that puts icons over approaching vehicles to help drivers make better decisions on when to turn.

The system can also virtually “paint” the road to provide a visual aid to drivers. For example, at an intersection the road would appear green in front of the vehicle and red in the path of oncoming traffic.

Ng-Thow-Hing said that with the media attention around Google’s autonomous vehicle, every major car company is working on self-driving cars. But since autonomous cars are still years away, there are plenty of interim steps that can make driving safer.

He sees the car as the “ultimate mobile device,” because it has all the benefits of a portable device, with more sensors and a larger field of view. Cars have many ways to interact with drivers, such as through gesture and speech commands, as well as through multiple displays. By combining all these elements, augmented reality in a vehicle becomes a “very immersive experience.”

So his four-person team built a driving simulator with a five-meter wide curved display to develop and test prototypes and make sure they’re safe. They rely heavily on NVIDIA’s UI Composer, which he said has helped Honda integrate more realistic 3D imagery and animation.

“Dying is a bad user experience,” he casually observed. “So you have to think about carefully and not trivially when you incorporate augmented reality in a car.”