BMW i Vision Dee: Almost Human
Imagine a world where your automobile recognizes who you are when you approach, and greets you by name.
A world where the iconic BMW “Kidney” grille can produce different facial expressions, like a smile.
A world where you can choose from 32 different colors for your car, and change them from one to another color at will.
A world where the high-tech in your car is so high-tech, the name of your car suggests the vehicle’s sophisticated software and user interface means it’s almost human.
If you’re old enough to remember the super popular space-age cartoon, The Jetsons, then you’ll remember flying cars that talked to you and took you where you wanted to go without asking.
Recently, at a private room where no cameras were allowed at the BMW center in Munich, Germany, Pursuitist and other select automotive and lifestyle media were invited to meet Dee, a full-electric, mid-size sedan that, in the words of Yogi Bear, is “smarter than the average bear.” Yogi was right, but Dee, an acronym for Digital Emotional Experience, is way smarter than anything on the road right now, and takes us even closer to the vehicles depicted decades ago in The Jetsons cartoons.
Dee’s full name is BMW i Vision Dee, an impressive concept vehicle BMW calls “a new and futuristic mid-size sedan with a new and pared down design language.” The aim of Dee goes back to the name: to create a stronger bond between people and their cars. Starting in 2025, models in what BMW calls the NEUE KLASSE (New Class), will begin to feature many of the high-tech and artificial intelligence features that make up the core of i Vision Dee. The first NEUE KLASSE feature released will be a Head-Up Display that extends the full-width of the windshield.
The full width of the windshield! Seeing it in operation was pretty mind-blowing.
“With the BMW i Vision Dee, we are showcasing what is possible when hardware and software merge. In this way, we are able to exploit the full potential of digitalization to transform the car into an intelligent companion. That is the future for automotive manufacturers – and, also, for BMW: the fusion of the virtual experience with genuine driving pleasure,” said Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG. “At the same time, BMW i Vision Dee is another step on the road to the NEUE KLASSE. With this vision, we are looking far into the future and underlining the tremendous importance of digitalization for our upcoming product generations.”
With its intelligent, almost human capabilities, BMW i Vision Dee accompanies drivers not only through real-life situations on the roads, but also in their digital environment.
“A BMW lives by its unparalleled digital performance. BMW i Vision Dee is about perfect integration of virtual and physical experiences,” said Frank Weber, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Development. “Whoever excels at integrating the customer’s everyday digital worlds into the vehicle at all levels will succeed in mastering the future of car-building.”
Working in combination with the advanced Head-Up Display (HUD), the BMW Mixed Reality Slider is the digital highlight and central operation controller of Vision i Dee. Through sensors on the instrument panel, drivers can determine how much digital content they want to see on the HUD. There is a five-step selection range that includes analog information, driving-related information, communications system info, augmented reality projection (think advanced navigation for example) and virtual worlds. Even the windows are dimmable should you want to gradually fade out reality. According to BMW, the Mixed Reality Slider can be utilized in an immersive way that engages different senses without requiring any additional tools, creating a new dimension of driving pleasure for the user.
Voice and Phygital Icons
Future NEUE KLASSE tech and AI enhancements will include voice and “phygital” icons. Phygital is a marketing term that describes melding digital experiences with physical ones.
Walk up to Dee, and she offers a personalized welcome scenario that combines graphical elements, light and sound effects.
Dee is also driven by the premise that natural language serves as the simplest, most intuitive form of interaction, enabling perfect understanding between humans and their vehicles. The headlights and the closed iconic BMW kidney grille also form a common phygital icon, allowing the vehicle to produce different facial expressions as mentioned earlier in this story.
This means Dee can talk to people and, at the same time, express moods such as joy or astonishment visually. Dee can also project an image of the driver’s avatar onto the side window to further personalize the welcome scenario.
Auto Expert Kimatni Rawlin’s Dee Avatar
In a vehicle that contains many “wow” features, one of the best is Dee’s E Ink technology. Dee’s concept body was outfitted with 240 E Ink segments, with each segment fully controllable and with the ability to showcase up to 32 colors.
We visited a BMW research and tech lab, and saw how the E Ink technology is developed and produced, including how a laser cutting process is used to trim the digital films used in production.
Dee E Ink segments in production
E Ink can be programmed for animations as well. Combine this with your custom digital avatars, and everything about BMW i Vision Dee is a visual feast.
Inside, digitalization goes hand in hand with the reductive use of materials, operating controls and displays to ensure nothing distracts from the digital experience and enhanced driving pleasure. The unconventional design of the steering wheel, with its central vertical spoke, creates touchpoints that come to life when approached or touched and can be operated by moving the thumb. These phygital touchpoints control selection of the content projected onto the windscreen and, together with the HUD, support the safety principle of “hands on the wheel, eyes on the road.”
“With BMW i Vision Dee, we are showing how the car can be seamlessly integrated into your digital life and become a trusty companion. The vehicle itself becomes your portal to the digital world – with the driver always in control,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, head of BMW Group Design. “Implemented the right way, technology will create worthwhile experiences, make you a better driver and simply bring humans and machines closer together.”
BMW i Vision Dee styling features short front and rear overhangs surrounding four hardware-free doors. Recyclable body components and interior materials heavily used. It reminds me a lot of the Maserati Bi-Turbo sedan from the 1980s, which was a very attractive vehicle.
At the recent 2023 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, BMW showed some of Dee’s technology on the BMW iX Flow. BMW calls the future of the brand Electric, Circular and Digital. BMW plans to showcase more NEUE KLASSE technology over the course of 2023.
While in Munich, BMW also showcased their next generation of battery cells as the brand marches towards full electrification, with 50% of total sales to be full electric by 2030.
The Generation Six battery cell (Gen6) will have a 30% faster charging time, a 30% increase in range, will be produced with 60% less CO2 emissions, and cost up to 50% less to produce.
We also had the opportunity to explore BMW’s latest hydrogen fuel cell technology, drive the new iX and i4 full-electric vehicles, and experience an extraordinary session behind the wheel of BMW M2 with mixed reality goggles on.
BMW’s factories are also planning for the future, with new high-tech and very efficient manufacturing processes that benefit the supply chain and production aspects, and ultimately benefit BMW consumers.
By later this year, The entire BMW Group – BMW, MINI, and Rolls-Royce (and even BMW Motorrad motorcycles), will offer about 12 all-electric vehicles, including the stellar i7 luxury sedan profiled in another story here on Pursuitist.
BMW in Munich
Munich, the state of Bavaria’s capital city with a population of about 1.6 million people, is home to centuries-old buildings and numerous museums. The city is known for its annual Oktoberfest celebration and its beer halls, including the famed Hofbräuhaus, founded in 1589. In the Altstadt (Old Town), central Marienplatz square contains landmarks such as Neo-Gothic Neues Rathaus (Town Hall), with a popular glockenspiel show that chimes and reenacts stories from the 16th century. While we were there, we also experienced incredible Christmas Villages with vendors, great food, and festive decorations.
Munich is a global center for art, science, technology, innovation, education and is well known for being the home of BMW, Bayerishce Motoren Werke (translation is Bavarian Engine Works Company). The official founding date of the company is March, 7, 1916, with the first automobiles entering production in 1928. BMW started as an aircraft manufacturer before automobile production began.
The history of BMW automobiles is displayed at the BMW Museum located near the Olympiapark in Munich.
The museum was established in 1973, shortly after the Summer Olympics opened. From 2004 to 2008, it was renovated in connection with the construction of the BMW Welt, just across the street from the Museum. BMW Welt combines futuristic architecture with insights into the present and future of mobility. All BMW Group brands are on display, and various exhibitions rotate throughout the impressive facility.
While we were there, a display featuring the mighty 3.0 CSL. The 2023 version pays homage to the legendary 3.0 CSL from the early 1970s. The new model is the epitome of the vaunted BMW M Cars, and continues an impressive M Car legacy.
You can also enjoy dining and shopping at the BMW Group store to purchase the latest gear and Group car and motorcycle models.
During a tour of the BMW Museum, we saw iconic models from the past and present like the Isetta microcar (which all 6’9” of me went for a ride in a few years ago!), the 2002 and 320i, both of which rescued BMW from hard times and were incredible sales successes, and modern muscle with the vaunted M Cars. Displays are arrayed in a fashion that gives you the history and the stories behind the cars.
One display of note marks BMW’s role in WWII, when forced labor was used to produce airplanes and motorcycle parts for the Nazi war effort. The display lays it all out as it was back then, and many of the photos and stories are disturbing, but reinforce BMW has not hidden from or denied its past history.
As the late, great Poet Laureate Maya Angelou once said: “You can’t really know where you are going until you know where you have been.”
BMW understands and displays all of its past, and with the amazing new technology we experienced, is well set for the future.
Pursuitist automotive and lifestyle contributor Brian Armstead has been involved in print, radio, web and television for over 47 years. Brian has traveled to 79 countries. He is a North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) Juror.