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During the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show, we saw a lot of interesting concepts. Possibly the number one concept all automakers are working towards is a digital mobile living space. Can you imagine your living room or home office on wheels? Basically, your car is connected to your social media, streaming accounts, smart speaker, and basically a computer on wheels, able to do everything a smart phone can do. On the other end of the spectrum, automakers were looking into robotics, AI, autonomous car technology, city infrastructure, and the budding metaverse. Well, Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) and Kia were two of the big players when it comes to the latter, and thanks to a joint multilateral research agreement, they’re going to start taking projects to the moon.
HMG and Kia Corp recently signed an agreement with six research institutes: Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI); Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI); Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI); Korea Automotive Technology Institute (KATECH); Korea Institute of Civil Engineering and Building Technology (KICT); and Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI). The goal is to bring robotics to the moon and then allow consumers to explore the lunar surface through the eyes of a robot. During the HMG presentation at the 2022 CES, we got a sneak peek at what this could look like with a video of Boston Dynamics’ robot, ‘SPOT’, exploring outer space.
"We have taken the first step towards transforming our vision for robotics and the concept of Metamobility into reality…We will expand the scope of human movement experience beyond traditional means of transport and beyond the bounds of Earth to further contribute to the progress of humankind and help create a better future." - Yong Wha Kim, Executive Vice President, and Head of R&D Planning & Coordination Center of Hyundai Motor and Kia
Calling it “metamobility”, HMG wants to bring the digital representation of other worlds in its section of the multiverse to the real world – or at least as real as it can get. Some of this will be thanks to the current research and development of purpose-built vehicles (PBVs). Kia is more or less leading the automotive group on this one, having released its first PBV in April 2022, a robotaxi service called the Niro Plus. It’s nothing like the hospital room on wheels that we saw in the presentation, but it’s the first step to making PBVs that do more than drive from point A to point B.
Aside from ideas like the mobile hospital room, one way PBVs will help to enrich the new metamobility goal is by creating mobile pods consumers can enter and “login” to using an avatar. Then, by connecting to a robot on the moon, consumers can see, hear, and possibly even feel the lunar surface as they explore. Right now, based on the presentation, it’s like a cross between virtual reality and the Spider-Man ride at Universal. The seating in the pod will move with the robot, imitate the feeling of lunar winds with fans, and maybe even some form of heat if looking at the Sun. Maybe one day we can get full suits like those in Player One to not only feel the lunar surface, but actually walk around as if we were really there!
Right now, the technology might not be there, and under the multilateral research agreement, the advancement of existing technologies will also lead to the development of new solutions for moon exploration mobility. Such technologies will consist of exploration equipment, software for mobility operation, remote communication functionality, software and hardware design and interpretation, space environment response technology, and special equipment for conducting lunar exploration missions.
It’s all very exciting to read about, but let’s see how long it takes to become a reality. You can learn more when you follow along with us on NowCar social media.