Converted Mini the wheel deal for budding DJs

Neon lights, mirrors, speakers and the chance to make your own music

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 2:11pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 2:43pm

An American friend played in a band he named Shut Up and Drive. Were he to christen the same outfit today, he might call it Boom, Zoom and the Speeding Psychedelic Trippers - after he'd paid an inspirational visit to the Mini showroom in Tsuen Wan.

Without actually reproducing those pharmaceutically assisted journeys of the 1960s, the shiny auto emporium is offering, until Sunday, a unique behind-the-wheel experience that might just eclipse Hong Kong's nightly harbour laser show.

Part of the showroom is given over to a darkened studio, in which stands a Mini Cooper S Cabrio. Around the walls is a rainbow of neon tubes teamed with an array of mirrors and speakers that all generate a sound and light show that would grace party spot Dragon-i.

The source of the spectacle? Well here's the really fun part: the visitor, in the driving seat of the convertible, gets his audio-visual kicks - if not quite on Route 66, because the car doesn't move - from producing the 21st-century equivalent of the mix tape.

By touching two electronic sensors placed either side of the steering wheel, stepping on the accelerator, which controls a third and pushing two red buttons below the gear stick (not ejector-seat controls), the "driver" becomes the conductor of his own orchestra.

While seated at what has now become, in effect, a DJ's mixing booth, he can layer synthesised sounds to create a track, putting down drums with the red buttons, adding guitars via the accelerator and coating it all with a keyboard melody "played" on the steering wheel.

Each of those musical strands is laid on top of a basic beat, which begins to play when the driver's door is opened.

When any of the five sensors is brought in to play the neon lighting is automatically triggered again, pulsing in waves, circles and vertically from the three light sources around the studio.

There were themes like the World Cup and interactive games
Katherine Ng, Mini Hong Kong

The one-off, non-factory-fitted optional extras and their surroundings produce what assistant marketing manager Katherine Ng of Mini Hong Kong calls "a conceptual driving experience" that can be enjoyed without even turning the ignition key.

The combination of "the three elements, driving, music, and visuals", she says, was the idea of five students from the Polytechnic University School of Design, directed by a technical consultant from their faculty.

"The design, the signalling, and the fine-tuning were done by the students, who worked on the project for months. In the two weeks it's been running, more than 50 people have tried Mini Pulze, and you can find some of their videos on YouTube and other social media," says Ng.

The transformation of the car, effusively billed by Mini as a "multisensorial art-ride neon jam", has a competitive element.

Anyone who wants to participate is asked to post a 20-second video clip of their efforts on Facebook. The 10 entries attracting the most "likes" will win various Mini Collection lifestyle goodies for their creators.

The experimental, art-meets-technology project, which according to its developers "challenges conventional thinking about the interaction between technology and art", is the result of Mini's third annual collaboration with the design school.

"We chose Mini Pulze from 10 proposals," says Ng.

"There were all sorts of themes like the World Cup, social media, and interactive games. And we're sponsoring the whole production. It's a corporate social responsibility initiative, so it's certainly not sales motivated."

Although mixing your own track while motoring probably won't find its way into the standard driving test, it just might be that humming along to the radio definitely doesn't cut it any more.

Mini Pulze daily from 9am to 7.30pm. Until Sunday. Mini Showroom, 2/F, Sime Darby House, 380 Castle Peak Road, Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong. Inquiries: 3193 6808