The convergence mix is bringing some unlikely partners together as vertical market borders are blurring and morphing not just product categories but entertainment genres. The recent movie "I, ROBOT" has all the makings of a film of epic status – a script inspired by the classic Isaac Asimov short story collection and the public’s first detailed introduction to the capabilities of personal robotics. Everything had to be entirely believable for a film set 30 years from now so when the script called for a futuristic vehicle, a loose tender was put to the world’s leading automotive design studios and Audi won the job.
Science fiction films now need to be done in incredible detail to be credible.
I, ROBOT uses state-of-the-art visual effects to bring the coming world of robots to life.
The NS-5 robot, which promises to be as much the star of the movie as flesh-and-blood star Will Smith, is the world’s most advanced consumer robot in the year 2035 at a time when robots have become ubiquitous.
To be credible and congruent, every aspect of the movie had to rival the NS-5 in granular detail – the NS-5 features fictitious proprietary technologies such as 3 Laws Safe, Centralcore 247 and a positronic brain.
The development of a production car is obviously the job of a designer.
Being able to work conceptually with next generation technologies is the dream of all automobile designers.
Having a chance to integrate almost freeform creative potential into the development and construction of a futuristic sports coupe, to be driven in an epic futuristic movie is perhaps the grandest stage possible to display technological prowess and futuristic brand relevance.
Consequently there was great enthusiasm when Audi Design was awarded the contract to realise the Audi RSQ for the motion picture "I, ROBOT"
"The main aim was to create a car that plausibly fitted into the futuristic scenery of the film, but still represented an unmistakable, visionary statement from Audi", says Julian Hönig, the man responsible for the RSQ’s exterior design.
Film director Alex Proyas was attracted by the Audi Nuvolari quattro study in 2003.
He liked the design language of the brand with the four rings so much that he decided to contact Audi.
It began in early April 2003 when AUDI’s Tim Miksche and Martin Ertl, flew to Vancouver, Canada, where preparations for shooting were underway.
"The director, producers, the set designer, the chief camera man and Twentieth Century Fox representatives showed us round to see the entire movie world of "I, ROBOT" – everything from giant stage settings to a humble wrist watch," Miksche recalls.
This was the world for which they would produce a car.
24 hours later they had reached agreement: Audi had won the contract ahead of rival automobile manufacturers by presenting the most convincing overall vehicle concept.
The agreement called for a ten week project.
"When we took off from Munich airport everything was open.
But when we landed there again a day later, we had in our briefcases the biggest product placement project in Audi’s corporate history – and a lot of work on our plate," Miksche remembers.
Two days later the first quarter-scale model of the RSQ was completed and a set designer from "I, ROBOT" worked with Audi Design in Ingolstadt over the next week finalising most design and vehicle specifications.
15 Audi designers, engineers and technicians manifested the RSQ on time, delivering it to the film set at the beginning of July.
Simultaneously, several other RSQ partial versions were created to enable crash and car interior scenes - an outer-skin of the car to be used in a crash scene, and interior mock-up to enable the shooting of scenes inside the RSQ.
The RSQ is a flat, broad and bullish two-seat, mid-engined sports car with sphere-shaped wheels running in similarly shaped wheel arches.
The sculpted laminate glass fibre body of the RSQ is coated with lunar silver paint, which when exposed to intensive light the bluish sheen of the silver paint takes on a golden tone.
"In this project we enjoyed the greatest possible freedom with regard to technical feasibility, ergonomics and customer requirements – factors that otherwise have high priority.
First of all we had to familiarise ourselves with the special vehicle specifications called for by the story and the movie’s environment.
The striking shape of the angular body cutouts for the head-light modules influence the front-end appearance of the RSQ. They are combined with side air inlets.
The xenon light tubes behind the clear-glass covers enhance the character of the front-end design.
Where you find the rear window on most sports coupes, an aluminium hood covers the engine in the RSQ.
In plan view this cover is an oval, running right up to the windscreen and integrated into the body by a transverse bar.
The gull-wing doors are another RSQ highlight: Whenever Will Smith gets into or out of the car, the rear-hinged doors open upwards like a butterfly’s wings, and twist slightly at the same time.
The interior of the RSQ was reduced to the essential elements of driving.
Will Smith sits in the car as if in a jet aircraft’s cockpit.
The centre console surrounds the "pilot’s" body in the bucket seat.
The steering wheel is another element in this aircraft cockpit analogy. Like an elevator control, it is open at the top and folds out of the instrument panel after the driver has entered the car.
The cockpit atmosphere of the interior is emphasised by the wide panoramic windscreen that extends back into the roof.
The glass surface runs from the right and left roof pillars as far as the rear of the cabin. This ensures a much greater field of view for the driver and passenger.
All relevant information for driving the car is fed into the digital display in the instrument cluster by means of Audi’s Multi Media Interface (MMI) control system.
The air conditioning and radio of the RSQ are classified as secondary functions.
The materials used and the colours of the RSQ interior are part of a function-oriented spatial atmosphere.
The colour spectrum is exclusively in the darker, more ‘technical’ appearance area with isolated silvery accents.
RSQ lettering illuminated with red light is integrated into the door sills.
Despite its futuristic appearance the RSQ still had to be clearly recognisable as an Audi.
Walter de´Silva, Head of Design for the Audi brand group, told his creative team: "You have the freedom to use the craziest ideas, but don’t forget the features that identify the Audi brand.
" The nose end of the film car was therefore designed to yield a typical Audi family resemblance. The trapezoidal shape of the Audi single-frame grille was adjusted to suit the proportions of the sports coupe.
"I believe that the Audi RSQ is a possible vision for the future, embedded in a fictional world. It is the consistent further development of brand values such as sportiness, progressiveness and sophisticated design, transferred to the film world of ‘I, ROBOT’." De´Silva concludes: "An Audi of the future could therefore look much the same .
" I, ROBOT opens in the United States on July 16th and rolls out across the world throughout the rest of July and early August.