BMW i: Born Electric

Our Role
Development, Experiential Design Consultant


Advertising agency KBS asked Future Colossal to join their team in creating a foot-stopping augmented reality experience that would bring the BMWi Concept Vehicle to the streets of New York City. By combining our expertise in computer vision and real-time graphic processing with the conceptual vision of KBS, the Window Into the Near Future was born.

Displayed on a 6th avenue storefront along Bryant Park, this project transformed live traffic into BMWi Concept Vehicles… except the iconic New York taxi of course, those were left in place. On foot or in a car, people smiled with surprise at the future of the streets reflected back at them.


BMWi: Window into the Near Future is built on two pieces of custom software (tracking and display), two computers, and three cameras. Each row of traffic needed to be tracked independently from a low angle camera. The tracking environment was one of the hardest imaginable. Constant changes in lighting conditions, fast moving shadows from nearby trees and buildings, hundreds of pedestrians that needed to be differentiated from cars, traffic of over a hundred cars per minute at times, and vastly different day and night environments.  

The video above shows reflected cars on the glass storefront and the corresponding virtually replaced BMWi's; proving a true one to one augmented mirror of the street.

Combined multi-threaded C++ and GLSL (GPU based Shader language for fast graphics processing) algorithms detected cars, while ignoring all other movement and changes in the environment. It then cataloged every car, determining whether it was a taxi or a normal car.

The car tracking data was sent to a second computer which rendered the augmented mirror display. It determined what was foreground and what was background, then used eight layers of image processing per car to match environmental lighting, animate, and to add reflections to the virtual BMW i8 and i3 cars. All of this happening in an impressive 1/30th of a second, allowed for a perfect mirror of the street traffic.


The software generated real time metrics for all cars and pedestrians that passed by the display. The car metrics were then tied into the BMW i series campaign by being used to calculate potential savings in CO2 emissions, fuel consumption, and fuel costs. These savings were displayed live on the screen and could be seen increasing with each passing car. In addition, an automated backend system allowed for the display of pre-screened tweets.