BMW's color-changing car looks ripped out of a videogame but it might be for real

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This could be a bit of a reach, but were you attempting to transmogrify gaming and personal transport you might end up with something like the Dee, BMW's future-gazing car concept (opens in new tab) for CES 2023.

The basic idea is a car that changes color in real time. Inevitably, the fine detail is techier than that and uses E Ink. In not-so-short, the concept car is covered in teeny tiny capsules filled with electro-active pigments that change color when a current is applied.

More specifically, it uses E Ink's latest 'programmable' Prism 3 capsules which are low power and can be applied to pretty much any shape or form. As implemented here, the technology isn't quite turning the whole car into a display. But it's getting there.

BMW says the car can display 32 different colours on the 240 individual E Ink panels. So, there's quite a that can be done in terms of creating multi-color patterns.

As for how close to actual production reality all this is, apparently the main issue is durability. Existing E Ink tech doesn't cope well with the typical knocks, scrapes, weather and car washes that daily drivers have to take in their stride.

However, BMW is working with E Ink to solve those problems. If they can crack the durability issues, we suspect color-changing cars could actually become a very big thing. If nothing else, it would save money on having your ride wrapped when you tire of the color.

BMW Dee

The BMW Dee has 240 individual panels each supporting 32 colors. (Image credit: BMW)

Of course, as gamers we can't help wondering what happens if you bump up the 'resolution' from 240 panels to something more akin to a display. Is this the first step in turning the car into something else entirely, something you simply sit and look at, maybe even game on? Sony is sure toying with the idea with its new Afeela car (opens in new tab).

Something interesting will almost certainly come out of all this, at least. Something, that is, beyond BMW's self-consciously kooky show real for the Dee starring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger and including a David Hasselhoff cameo so short, you'll wonder if it actually happened. Have a watch (opens in new tab). You're welcome.

Image (opens in new tab)


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Jeremy Laird
Hardware writer

Jeremy has been writing about technology and PCs since the 90nm Netburst era (Google it!) and enjoys nothing more than a serious dissertation on the finer points of monitor input lag and overshoot followed by a forensic examination of advanced lithography. Or maybe he just likes machines that go “ping!” He also has a thing for tennis and cars.