What do you do when you are in your car? The answer is that you increasingly spend less time driving it than you think. Swiss startup AirConsole believes that by 2025, up to 30% of the time people spend in their cars will be spent interacting with content served up through in-vehicle technology and entertainment systems. As part of that development, the company is today announcing what it bills as a world-first partnership with BMW, which will see its gaming technology installed in the automaker’s vehicles.
“The car is the next living room,” says Anthony Cliquot, CEO of AirConsole. “That’s where we’ll be consuming an increasing amount of our content — and that includes playing games.”
AirConsole is best known for developing technology that allows people to use their smartphone as a game controller so that they don’t have to buy a specialist PC to play games on their TV screen. The company has worked with more than 10,000 developers worldwide to create nearly 200 games using this technology, which to date have been used by more than 15 million players.
After seeing demand for its technology grow among consumers who play games on TV screens at home, AirConsole turned its attention to other places where people have access to screens. The automotive market, where manufacturers have steadily improved in-car entertainment technology, including larger screens to display navigation and entertainment content, was one obvious candidate.
“It made perfect sense for both parties,” says Cliquot of AirConsole’s partnership with BMW. “If your car is really going to be just another living room, we need to provide opportunities to play games in it.”
To that end, AirConsole’s partnership with BMW will ensure that the German automaker’s vehicles are equipped with the technology to do just that. Drivers and their passengers will be able to use their phones to play games on the screens in their new BMW cars, with AirConsole making its selection of game lists available from the start of the alliance. Players will be able to play alone or in a multiplayer mode, where everyone in their care can participate.
BMW has already equipped some of its new 7 Series models with AirConsole technology and will roll it out to the rest of its fleet in 2023. The auto giant selected AirConsole as a partner through its BMW Startup Garage program.
Importantly, game functionality will only be available when cars are stationary. In part, this reflects an obvious safety concern – there can be no question of drivers being distracted when the vehicle is on the move. But there is also the issue of connectivity – gamers need a good and stable data connection to play the games.
Regardless, Cliquot expects people to spend a significant amount of time playing AirConsole games. Electric cars take a while to charge, he points out, so gaming could be one way to pass the time at charging stations. In fact, there are many reasons why people spend time in cars that aren’t actually on the road – from time spent waiting when picking up friends and family to travel delays and other waiting times.
“We think it’s going to have a lot of appeal,” adds Cliquot. “We’re not specifically targeting gamers, but a much larger market of all those who play games when they have a little time to spare.”
BMW is also convinced that its customers will appreciate the innovation. “This will make any waiting time inside the vehicle, such as charging, a pleasant moment,” says Stephan Durach, Vice President of BMW Group Connected Company Development.
Currently, AirConsole’s deal is exclusively with BMW, with the company receiving a commission for every new vehicle that rolls off the production line with the technology installed. But over time, Cliquot expects other manufacturers to follow suit. “Our goal here is really to create a new industry standard,” he says. “It’s in everyone’s interest to create a vibrant ecosystem around in-car gaming.”
The partners are also excited about the future possibilities. AirConsole has already started working on solutions that would allow gaming while the car is on the move – perhaps limiting participation to players with screens in the back of the vehicle and finding new solutions to the connectivity problem.
For now, however, AirConsole and BMW see today’s announcement as groundbreaking. They argue that the model of using your smartphone as a controller is preferable to games based on touchscreen technology, which provide a better experience than with devices most people already own.