The Chinese e-commerce giant invested in companies that plan to put augmented-reality navigation systems in cars for possibly the first time.
With global spending in AR and VR expected to double this year, Alibaba appears to believe that augmented reality is the way to go. AR navigation startup WayRay on Tuesday announced a new round of investment from Alibaba and a partnership with Alibaba-backed carmaker Banma Technologies. WayRay and Banma will develop a new infotainment system that incorporates AR car navigation ability.
The new system will be built into one of Banma's 2018 car models and is expected to look like the above image. The AR car navigation display will show drivers the navigation and route information along with traffic data and other warnings on the windshield.
These virtual elements will be visible to drivers from up to 20 meters away. They'll be mapped onto the road ahead as though they were part of the real world, and their appearance will be affected by the speed of the car and its rotation angle. The companies are slated to test the cars and the built-in system by end of this year, a spokeswoman for WayRay said, adding that the company hopes to launch the cars by end of 2018 in China first.
Alibaba could be the first to successfully build such a system into cars unless Tesla beats it to the draw. Last month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly hinted that he might build a head-up display into the Model 3.
An Alibaba representative declined further comment.