BMW Next100 Experience
We became aware of BMW Next100 whilst waiting for a train to a client meeting at Waterloo station. The now de-rigueur virtual reality experience was framed with a shiny futuristic podium and staff eager to get an Oculus headset over our ears. We didn’t have time to get involved, as our train was due to leave, but we walked away with a make-at-home cardboard VR box and a leaflet. If we had had time, we could have been whisked back home to Camden roundhouse in a brand new BMW i3 to visit the exhibition.
We wandered down to the roundhouse a couple of days later to get the full BMW experience. Large posters adorned the exterior of the iconic building, and we were welcomed by futuristically-dressed (white sweatshirt, beige trousers, white shoes) staff. There was a reception, but we were waved straight through into the main space even though we were ticketless.
On arriving, visitors glimpse the main body of the exhibition through a curtain; but before you enter there are a bank of interactive screens which welcome you when you approach. Here you can find out about how BMW have been shaping the future of motoring over the last century and how many of these innovations (including the model numbering system) are still alive and evolving years after they first launched.
After playing with the screen you are drawn into the main space, which feels like a cross between a museum entrance, a nightclub and a hotel lobby. You are immersed in a larger-than-life film with surround sound and amazing motion graphics. This distracts you with its public-broadcasting style story of the Next100 years (energy is emission free; mobility is tailor made; driving is autonomous; technology is human; vehicles take care of themselves; cities are more connected).
Then you notice something beyond the curtains, something shiny and car-shaped…so you move into a showcase space which combines concept cars just like those ones you see pictures of at European trade car shows.
Each car is given its own space with a team of knowledgeable exhibition people (Rolls Royce is a plush sitting room, complete with VR experience which tells the story of the car’s development). The vehicle is actually an elaborate sofa on wheels, admittedly with a soft leather banquette, silk cushions and an open grain sideboard.
Next is BMW itself with its “ultimate driving experience.” This space is built around flexible, smart materials that are modular and versatile enough to update cars after production and purchase. The exhibit actually lacks any interaction, which is more than compensated for by the WOW of the car itself.
Next up is Mini, which is a clear glaze fronted car with a familiar shape. The side of the car blends the door panels and windows so you can’t make out where one starts and the other stops. The Mini experience is rooted around shared yet customisable mobility solutions, where driving is entirely optional; a film shows a car taking a passenger into town before they leave to meet friends and the Mini is picked up seamlessly by someone else. The design on the car’s roof can be updated as easily as the wallpaper on your phone.
Finally, there is a motorcycle space, which feels like a bit of an afterthought. This area shows a kind of cubic giroscope that stays locked in position despite the floor pivoting underneath it – you can interact with this surface by holding your hand over a sensor. It wasn’t mentioned, but we can only imagine that the launch of new BMW bike (in Los Angeles in October) will be around stability…
This was the end of the experience, so we sat down to take in the BMW story, told using 10-foot screens with immersive graphics and imagery, designed to be absorbed as you move around the space. With a tasteful boutique bag full of posters, leaflets, VR boxes and a warm goodbye, we left the exhibition to return to the proto-punk environs of Camden, a million miles, if not lightyears behind the sensory world we had been immersed in just minutes before.
Author: Michael Lawless
Images courtesy of BMW.