Mini is putting a furry face to the digital assistant that will feature in its upcoming models, starting with the Aceman concept. His name is Spike and he's a virtual English bulldog that lives in the infotainment system of the Mini Aceman concept and guides passengers through its operation. (Eds Note: Did we learn nothing from Clippy?)
Voice-activated digital assistants aren't new. Most premium car companies have their versions, typically activated by a phrase like, "Hey Mercedes," "Hey BMW," or "Listen up, AMC." (One of those may be made up.) However, Mini wants to give it more personality, so it acts more like a companion helping you through your various journeys rather than just a cold, natural language user interface. According to Mini's head of design, Oliver Heilmer, "[Spike] is not just a design experiment—he is becoming a characterful companion for the user experience.”
Spike will first be seen in person at the 2023 Auto Shanghai show April 18-27, both in digital form inside the Aceman concept and as an art toy sculpture.
Mini has been using the idea of Spike, the English bulldog since it rebranded itself under BMW in 2001. This is just the first time Mini will use Spike in its actual cars, rather than just throwing a bulldog into commercials and Instagram ads.
Spike will now be seen in Mini's circular infotainment system, and likely will have countless animations for different functions. However, in the case of the Aceman concept, whose entire dashboard is digital, Spike can also make his way outside the main infotainment circle.
So far, it just seems like Spike is going to be the digital face of Mini's version of BMW's virtual assistant. Mini hasn't said just how much Spike will be able to do or how many functions he will have, but more info is said to be coming this year. Mini has always been about cheeky fun and Spike seems to be something that its customers will like, even if he doesn't provide any additional functionality to the user experience.
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