BMW had a dream: It wanted to help its owners discover kinks in a new and engaging way. It would take a tremendous amount of computing power and tens of thousands of photographs, but all that work paid off. Now, BMW owners are able to satisfy their kink by cruising down roads shaped like the bend in the rear window of its vehicles.
You may be wondering why this oddly specific piece of BMW design language was picked for this project. Real Bimmers know that BMW isn’t only know for the iconic kidney grille design, but for the rear windows little bendy bit on its cars’ rearmost pillar (at least, according to BMW.)
Known as the Hofmeister Kink, the bend in the rear window was first put into BMWs by designer Wilhelm Hofmeister and for the last 60 years the Kink has appeared on every BMW’s rear pillar. The app allow owners to search for Kinks in roads near them, and even look for their specific model year’s window etched out in infrastructure form.
It’s remarkable how much work and expertise went into this fun celebration of the automaker’s history. From the press release:
To identify every Hofmeister Kink-shaped road across the country, the first step was to use images of every BMW model produced since 1962 to create vectorized versions of each model’s individual ‘kink’ shape. Sixty-four vectorized ‘kink curves’ led to a custom-created synthetic AI training set made up of 30,720 images which were supported by Google Colab for machine learning and the open-source neural framework, Darknet, for computation.
From there, the job was to train the model using the synthetic training set, running detection on the incredibly complex U.S. road network which spans more than 3.9 million miles. Asked about the project, Ian Mackenzie, Chief Creative Officer, Performance Art said:
“Using AI to detect and map Hofmeister Kink-shaped curves on a roadmap of the U.S. wasn’t a needle-in-a-haystack kind of task – it was a needle-in-10,000-haystacks task.” The team turned to YOLO v4, a convolutional neural network that detects and recognizes objects and shapes in real-time, to identify Hofmeister Kink-shaped roads across the country with stunning speed and accuracy.
The team ran dozens of AI training sessions to identify the highest possible number of ‘kinks’ while maximizing the confidence in the results.
The last step was to extract the AI results as +56,000 geo-coordinates that would power the Hofmeister Kink engine and to use aerial photography and satellite imagery to visualize each and every kink from coast to coast using the MapBox API.
All that work means BMW owners can find a Kink pretty much anywhere in the U.S.:
And if you want to drive your model’s specific Kink anywhere in the U.S., like on a BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, for example, you will likely find a route at least in your state, if not close by:
Now that’s just good, old fashioned German fun.