Imagining Entertainment In The Back Of Every Ride

Lyft is one of the world’s leading ride-sharing companies. The rider experience is paramount to the brand; it strives to delight riders every step of the journey and bring them closer together with their driver and other riders.

Inspired by immersive technology and how it is being used to innovate in gaming and XR, Lyft wanted to explore how the technology could transform the back-of-car experience.


A New Kind Of Stage

As more people share rides and self-driving cars get closer to reality, there are huge opportunities for imaginative, engaging in-car entertainment. Working with Lyft and Bay Raitt (Spiraloid) REWIND embarked on an R&D journey to create a new kind of moving stage with infinite possibilities.

However, it wasn’t a simple process. REWIND had to ensure hardware that was engineered to work on static ground would work in a moving vehicle. The team couldn’t rely on the IMU (an electric sensor comprised of accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers which measures the rate of change and movement) because, in a moving vehicle, characters become untethered to the real world outside.

To override reliance on the IMU, REWIND used a constellation system in the case of VR. For  AR, a smart computer vision tech like Vuforia was used. If the device knows where it is relative to the car and the car knows where it is relative to the world, your experience can play out as it should. Unity’s flexibility made this a relatively simple task across multiple devices.

For the first proof of concept, the team concentrated on augmented reality. The end AR solution was a combination of Unity power, internal scripts/plugins, ARKit, ARCore, and Vuforia, which makes the camera on your phone positionally aware for AR applications.

Once the tech could keep a character anchored to the world inside the vehicle, the next challenge was creating a character and story riders would love. Working with legendary creator Bay Raitt (Lord of the Rings), REWIND’s creative technology team and the Lyft creative team were able to build a backseat entertainment experience that leveraged new technology to tell a delightful story with a character that interacts with the world around them.

For the first iteration, the back of the car was transformed into a new kind of stage, complete with iPad viewer, physical staging, lighting, and a magical tour guide.