This is the BMW i Vision Dee, which has made its official debut at CES 2023. Dee stands for Digital Emotional Experience and the car is a mid-size sedan that blends some brilliant design ideas with lots of tech innovations— inside and out.
The concept was featured at BMW’s CES Keynote speech from Oliver Zipse and makes perfect sense in the larger-than-life surroundings of Las Vegas. Dee is certainly dazzling to look at. From the outside the car looks just like a 3 Series that has been transmogrified into a car that uses the best bits from the past, while skillfully showcasing the future.
Update: The BMW i Vision Dee is one of our picks for our Best of CES 2023 Awards. See what other products debuting at this year's show made the cut.
Central to this are the smooth lines and the way the bodywork blends seamlessly with the glasswork. Those lines run from a cute nose section and twin angular headlights at the front through to the back, where the taillights continue the edgy theme. The sides are smooth and seamless too, while the wheels follow suit using neat yellow styling lines to compliment the minimalist yellow flecks on the bodywork.
BMW might have employed the classic three-box sedan design that it’s used to sell millions of cars in the past, but Dee is an altogether different prospect. Traditional design elements, such as those headlights and grille have been given so-called phygital treatment. No that’s not a typo, it’s a term BMW has come up with to describe a fusion of physical and digital elements.
Adding to this digital treatment is the way Dee can talk to people as they approach, while also projecting an image of the driver’s avatar onto the side windows. When you see it up close, the effect is really impressive thanks to the high-resolution graphics, with dimmable windows allowing folks inside to stay discreetly hidden from view.
The innovation gets even wilder once the doors open up and you get your first glimpse inside Dee. Catching your eyes first is the expansive head-up display, which runs across the bottom of the windscreen in full, glorious colour. Drivers can pick and choose how much digital content is displayed thanks to ‘shy-tech’ sensors on the instrument panel. There’s a quirky steering wheel too, with a single central spoke.
Another party trick comes in the shape of phygital touchpoints. For example, put your fingers near the door panel and a virtual switch appears for you to press. It disappears again when you move your hand away. One of the most practical things about using something like this in real life is that fewer components will be needed in the future. Presumably that could help automakers save huge amounts of money in production costs over time.
The rest of the interior is simple and minimalistic with sculptured seats, topped by neatly curved headrests. There’s no transmission tunnel either, so there’s nothing but open space across the floor area. Meanwhile, the driver’s seat has a molded armrest on the right-hand side, which sports a small drive mode tab. Brake and accelerator pedals add to the likelihood of the BMW i Vision Dee being an EV, even though the car itself is just a rolling concept.
Real possibilities and evolving innovations
While Dee is all about showcasing the future, the car does contain innovations that will filter through to new models. In fact, BMW believes that some of the tech on show here will be available in production cars by 2025.
“With the BMW i Vision Dee, we are showcasing what is possible when hardware and software merge. In this way, we are able to exploit the full potential of digitalisation to transform the car into an intelligent companion. That is the future for automotive manufacturers and, also, for BMW: the fusion of the virtual experience with genuine driving pleasure,” said Zipse.
BMW’s Dee showcase isn’t all there is to see from the Munich-based automotive masterminds either. Cast your mind back to CES 2022 and you’ll probably remember the unveiling of another headturning car from the Bavarian masterminds; the BMW iX Flow. It featured body panels that could change colour using electrophoretic technology, which was super cool to see in action.
Well, in the time since last year's show, the team behind that mind-blowing piece of work has been mighty busy. Led by Stella Clarke, the Head of Project lead who came up with the original idea after being inspired by the tech used in e-readers, E-Ink has moved on in leaps and bounds. In fact, it’s now available in full, Chameleon-like colour and is being shown off on the bodywork of Dee.
Explosion of colour
Where the idea originally used just grays and blacks to work, the concept has evolved and now has the potential to use colours, from right across the spectrum. In essence, this works by drawing on a very small but unique voltage to create a shade from a colour palette similar to CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) used in traditional printing. Up to 32 colours can be displayed in total.
As an example, a wheel trim can change from yellow to purple and back again simply by passing the current through the material. This looks like plastic film, but it can actually be manipulated to fit the contours of bodywork or interior panels. The team have divided the BMW I Vision Dee into 240 segments, all of which can be controlled independently of the other.
That means the idea has developed immensely with an almost infinite array of patterns possible across the bodywork area, all of which can change in seconds. The team used a precise process of laser cutting to get the various sheets of film needed to cover the car all over.
Working alongside E Ink staff, the creative BMW engineers have been able to produce a dazzling display of programmed animations, giving the BMW I Vision Dee a truly unique edge. It’s a far cry from the rather rough-round-the-edges iX car that was rushed to make the CES 2022 show deadline.
Following the latest developments with the colour aspect of E Ink, it seems entirely likely that some of what is currently being shown on BMW’s demonstration vehicle might eventually make it to production cars in the not too distant future. Maybe we’ll even get to see an on-the-road edition of Dee too?