holoride - adding thrill to every ride

I got the feeling that Cloudbreakers, the giant robot game, is optimized for speeding down the highway rather than the Manhattan traffic we were stuck in, because the game moved pretty slowly. The digital terrain shifted as the car heaved forward, but the effects weren’t particularly interesting. In stop-and-go traffic, we just weren’t moving much, which limited the opportunities for sweeping passages of gameplay to synchronize with the drive.


Wollny later told me that Cloudbreakers is linked up to GPS to allow for dynamically generated content on the fly, with towers and other elements in the game that pop up in relation to your car’s real-world position. From a technical perspective, that’s an impressive feat. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell it was happening, in part because I couldn’t see the buildings around me. I had a headset on, and we weren’t moving fast enough for the game to do its thing.

As promised, the Motorverse was immersive. I felt that brief moment of delight that comes with your first crack at a new technology. But at the same time, the game was dull. Its most promising features seemed blunted. Perhaps there’s more going on in the narrative story mode, but the version of Cloudbreakers I loaded up basically felt like VR Space Invaders. I didn’t find myself yearning for more when it was time to change gears.


To start, Holoride comes with several games: Cloudbreakers, retro-style games with names like Dynablaster, puzzle games like Einstein Brain Trainer and the story-based Bookful Tales. “We’ll release new titles every four to six weeks,” Wollny said. “We also differentiate between these fully immersive experiences, like Cloudbreakers, and the more casual games for shorter rides, as well as educational content and video streaming.”

After about 10 minutes of dispensing with evil robots, we switched gears and opened up the phone mirroring app. That’s right, Holoride lets you sync up your headset with an Android phone, so you can finally scroll Instagram in VR while in motion, just like you’ve always wanted to. My Holoride tour guide opened up Netflix on his phone and put on a Nikki Glaser comedy special, which floated in a phone-shaped window over a moving but mostly featureless landscape. Glaser isn’t my favorite standup, but it was definitely a better viewing experience than holding a phone in my hand. That said, the image wasn’t as crisp as it would be on my cellphone.


“It’s the largest TV screen you can get in the car, 180 inches, or 180 virtual inches,” Wollny said.

It didn’t take long after the special opened for me to start feeling carsick. Nausea is a problem for a lot of people when they’re using virtual reality headsets in their living rooms, let alone in a moving car. There’s something about the disconnect between your visual field and the physical sensations in the real world that upsets stomachs. Holoride swears they’ve accounted for this problem with the software’s motion-sensitive graphics. According to Wollny, Holoride actually decreases the likelihood of car sickness for people who normally feel it, because the things you’re seeing are synchronized with the g-forces affecting your body. Maybe it was something I ate.


Should you buy into the Motorverse?

If you want to experience the Motorverse for yourself, you’re going to need an Audi, and it has to be a new one stocked with the company’s MIB 3 entertainment system. That means your cheapest ticket to Motorverse is the 2023 Audi A4, starting at $39,900. You’ll also have to buy the Holoride package separately, because it’s not available at dealerships for now. Worse still, you actually can’t buy it in the US yet. Holoride launched in Germany and the UK this year, and it’s slated for the States in 2023. It costs €699 for the headset, the controller and access to the Holoroide platform, but only for a year. After that it’s a €19.99 a month subscription, less if you pay annually.


There’s also the fact that you can’t drive while you’re in the Motorverse. So the person paying for Holoride (and the car) probably won’t get to enjoy it—unless you have a very patient partner to act as chauffeur while you fight robots. In all likelihood, the early adopters of this technology are going to be kids. European kids, specifically.

With a Holoride of your own, you will probably have some fun. Is that amount of fun worth €699? That probably depends on whether or not your parents have a lot more money than I do. You can buy 3,280 Chicken McNuggets for that kind of money. Watching Nikki Glazer and shooting robots in VR was novel, but I might take the nuggets. Then again, I’m not the target audience. If you live in Germany and your parents are rich, make them buy this for you. It could be the perfect way to pass the time on those long trips down the Autobahn with mom and dad.

A woman using Holoride in a car
This could be you, if you’re a European with a lot of disposable income.
Photo: Holoride

Holoride deserves some credit. This is a brand new product developed at a time when the Metaverse writ large is in its infancy. The technology here is cool, if a little buggy. Whether you believe in that cool factor enough to buy it now rather than wait for a better version is a question only you can answer. I can’t imagine the amount of engineering it took to seamlessly integrate the movement of a car with VR apps in real time. Cloudbreakers didn’t do much for me, but I can imagine a much more advanced video game using this platform, some sort of car-based Fortnite where the drive has a more dramatic impact on the strategy and game mechanics.


This platform could be pretty interesting one day if enough people buy it and developers start making apps that take full advantage of its automotive capabilities. That’s a big if. But for all the German little children in a position of wealth and privilege, Holoride might be a good addition to your Weihnachtsliste. The tech can only get better from here.

Less than an hour later, my ride in the Motorverse was over almost as soon as it started. Wollny gave me a lift back to Gizmodo’s office, and I took off the headset and got out of the car. Unlike my Motorverse robot, I had other things to do besides fight bad guys, like write this article, so I had to return to my desk.