MINI Vision Urbanaut Concept Revealed
By Ameya Naik
1 mins read
Published on July 3, 2021
In November 2020, the MINI brand revealed the MINI Vision Urbanaut virtual concept vehicle, an all-new interpretation of mobility through an innovative vision of space. Now, the BMW Group has made a physical model of the vehicle showcasing its space and sustainable materials. MINI sees its future self primarily as an enabler of and companion for unforgettable times, this is what its calling "MINI moments". Inspired by the question "What kind of experiences do I want to have with my vehicle?", they provide the conceptual platform for the MINI Vision Urbanaut - for times when you're travelling and others when you're not. What this means more specifically is encapsulated by the MINI moments "Chill", "Wanderlust" and "Vibe".
The exterior and interior of the vehicle change to reflect the MINI moment at hand and so give the on-board experience the best possible stage and environment. Fragrance, sound and ambient lighting continue to enrich the baseline mood initiated by the chosen MINI moment. The transformation of the vehicle through the different moments can now be experienced in reality with the physical model of the MINI Vision Urbanaut.
The rear seat bench (Cosy Corner) invites various seating and lying positions
The Chill moment invites you to catch a breath and pause in the here and now. The car becomes a kind of retreat, a haven where you can relax or work with full concentration. While the rear seat bench (Cosy Corner) invites various seating and lying positions, the backlit Loop above it takes on an appearance inspired by a green forest canopy and can also be dimmed. In the central area, the circular instrument folds down to become a table lamp, eliminating displays or switches that might remind the customer of their automotive surroundings.
Wanderlust is the only MINI moment where the MINI Vision Urbanaut is being driven or driving with automated driving functions. In this moment, the interior becomes the ideal place for driving the car, or being its passenger, and enables those on board to rediscover the romance of travel. When the customer wants to drive themselves, a tap of a finger on the MINI logo brings out the steering wheel and pedals. The user interface on the central circular instrument also adapts its visuals; alongside an animation of the route, additional journey information - such as visitor attractions and arrival time - is displayed here for those on board.
The MINI Vision Urbanaut also creates an urban space for people when it's parked
The Vibe moment puts time with other people at centre stage - in every way. Opening the side door and folding up the windscreen creates a welcoming scene that blurs the boundaries between the outside and inside. The central circular instrument becomes a media control centre. An animation of graphic equalizers moving with the music is projected onto surfaces of the front, rear, wheels and Loop above the rear seat bench, creating a club atmosphere. If those on board so desire, the car can even begin to resemble a boombox. Finally, there is the fourth option, the customisable "my moment", which provides users with further scope for tailoring the design of the vehicle to their needs and desires.
Bernd Korber, Head of MINI said, "The MINI Vision Urbanaut represents our image of how MINI's 'Clever Use of Space' could provide an answer to the needs of future cities and lifestyles."
The MINI Vision Urbanaut is only 4460 mm in length, its height allows it to provide an interior space that can be used in many different ways
The MINI Vision Urbanaut also focuses on sustainability - and this can be seen and experienced directly in various aspects of the vehicle. The starting point for the concept was the "Clever Use of Space" for which MINI is renowned; i.e. it offers maximum space on the smallest possible footprint. Although the MINI Vision Urbanaut is only 4460 mm in length, its height allows it to provide an interior space that can be used in many different ways and offers a whole new ease of movement inside the car. The electric drive system ensures emission-free mobility, yet another aspect is the scope for using the vehicle for purposes beyond mobility. The MINI Vision Urbanaut also creates an urban space for people when it's parked, significantly increasing the amount of time they will want to use the vehicle or just hang out in it.
The MINI Vision Urbanaut sets out to use resources responsibly. From the beginning of the concept phase the team focused on consistently reducing the number of components and avoiding unnecessary use of materials. This has been achieved by developments including clever dual-functionality for the dashboard (it can turn into a daybed) and the debut appearance of a circular OLED centre display - which recasts itself as a stylish lamp in the Chill moment - above the table. Maximising length of use by ensuring materials can be replaced is likewise a priority. Changeable covers are a good example of how this can be achieved. In addition, the interior has been created without the use of chrome or leather, an approach that will also be rolled out in the next MINI model generation.
The designers created the spacious interior experience before developing the exterior
The interior of the MINI Vision Urbanaut features a high proportion of recycled materials and they are almost exclusively renewable and recyclable. Dominant in the interior are textiles made from recycled materials (including wool, polyester and Tencel) which blend cosiness and quality with softness and comfort. The designers also paid extra attention to solutions composed of a single type of material - known as "mono-materials". These are easy to recycle further down the line and can be turned into new products. The use of renewable and recyclable cork on the steering wheel and sections of the floor adds a special touch thanks to its natural feel. The materials for the MINI Vision Urbanaut highlight the extremely high levels of visual and haptic quality that a sustainably designed interior can offer.
Another aim with the MINI moments was to use digital integration to intensify or enrich the analogue experience. This "analogue love, digital connection" approach runs throughout the vehicle. An additional digital level has been integrated below several of the analogue surfaces. Examples here include the table inside the vehicle (which initiates the MINI moments when the MINI Token is placed in one of the slots), the lamp with OLED display and the LED matrixes in the interior under a layer of textile or in the front and rear ends of the car. These areas of the vehicle bring together the analogue and digital worlds into a new and immersive experience.
As an innovative space concept, the MINI Vision Urbanaut was designed from the inside out. The designers created the spacious interior experience before developing the exterior, using floor plans, pieces of furniture plus wooden scale models to provide an indication of size. Over the course of the project, augmented reality was employed to create a digital model, which was then systematically optimised. The physical model of the MINI Vision Urbanaut was then put together from start to finish at the MINI Design studio in Munich.
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