Lyft Plans To Bring AR and VR Experiences to Transportation
Created as an alternative to the traditional yellow taxi cab, companies like Lyft and Uber succeeded in breaking what amounted to a monopoly on private transportation by offering services that you simply can't get while crammed into a vomit-and-air-freshener-scented space behind a plexiglass window while you anxiously watch the meter run. Features like real-time GPS tracking, set prices, bottled water, and phone charging have all become de rigueur: consumers have come to expect them.
As the battle between car services continues, providers are dreaming up new ways to attract and keep customers in a market of nearly identical services and competitive pricing. Could entertainment be the answer? At least one company seems to think so.
According to TechCrunch, Lyft has filed patent applications to bring augmented and virtual reality experiences to their backseats in an effort to provide "a more engaging ride experience" to their passengers. The VR patent, filed in July of 2017, aims to create an immersive, interactive, three-dimensional experience that will be partly-guided by inertial forces; that is, the bumps along the turns your driver takes as he or she blazes through the city to get you to the airport. Rather than watching the gray skyline of Manhattan disappear as you edge into Queens, you could instead find yourself on a virtual tour of the countryside or – and this is actually suggested in the patent – at the helm of a spaceship firing a laser at flying saucers. Virtual road rage, anyone?
The second patent leverages AR to provide information to passengers. Arguing that "conventional systems sometimes result in a pickup/drop-off experience that is inefficient, confusing, and difficult," the application aims to "generate three-dimensional virtual objects (e.g., augmented reality elements) to overlay on a user's view of real-world surroundings to assist in a pickup or drop-off process." This one seems a little less useful, at least to us. If someone is incapable of using a GPS-driven map that shows both their and their driver's location in relation to each other on the simplest possible format – a flat map – we're not sure how adding an AR component is going to make that experience any less "confusing and difficult."
While we certainly applaud Lyft's audacious vision, we can't help but wonder if the backseat of a moving car is the best place to be immersed in a space battle or mountain valley scene. It seems like a good way to end up decorating the interior of someone's freshly detailed Lexus. That's a ride that nobody wants to take.