How auto brands are using VR & AR in their marketing strategy

The automotive design world has been revolutionised with the use of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR). Ford, Volvo and Volkswagen have been using both AR and VR to great effect while designing a range of new automobiles.

Ford Motor Company utilises virtual reality to design cars prior to creating a physical prototype. According to in Ford’s Immersion Lab, designers can use Oculus Rift to walk around the car and even experience sitting inside it to get an early idea of what the end user will experience.

From the tiniest detail of the dashboard to the lines of the form of the car can actually be seen and experienced through AR and VR. Ergonomic details like head space, the space between the driver and the dashboard can be accurately assessed when the designer is actually sitting inside the car as opposed to seeing it a two dimensional image on a computer screen.

Autodesk has done some significant exploration in this area with a product called VRED, a visualisation software that helps automotive designers and engineers create product presentations, design reviews, and build virtual prototypes.

VRED can work in conjunction with spatial AR to project 3D information onto different designs. If you have a clay model of a car, or maybe a fabricated foam car, you can project different materials or design configurations onto it — giving multiple people in a room the ability to look at different design options.

Volvo and Volkswagen have already done some intriguing work in this area. VRED also now works with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive’s VR head mounted displays (HMDs).

According to the news published by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) unveiled a prototype of an immersive car sales application at Mobile World Congress designed and built by Accenture Digital using Google’s Project Tango developer kit.

The prototype demonstrates how augmented reality can revolutionize the shopping experience for consumers by allowing them to view and interact with a full-scale virtual version of the object – or car – they are considering buying.

The prototype allows car buyers to hold a device and, using the integrated sensor technology and motion tracking, area learning, and depth perception from Project Tango, view, walk around, look inside and configure a life-size virtual car.

On the Accenture demo, doors can be opened to reveal a realistic and detailed interior, where changes to upholstery colors or dashboard styles can be made with a tap on the device screen.

Project Tango technology gives mobile devices the ability to navigate the physical world similar to how we do as humans. Project Tango brings a new kind of spatial perception to Android devices by adding advanced computer vision, image processing, and special vision sensors.

A Project Tango device maps the 360-degree environment around it, meaning that as it is moved it navigates and views the changing environment in the same way as a person would. As the car is viewed through the device, the virtual car moves in relation to how the user moves.

Accenture Interactive, part of Accenture Digital, has worked with FCA to create an application for this new technology that will transform the process of buying and configuring a new car.

Users of the FCA car configuration solution will be able to walk freely around a full-scale vehicle in almost any environment because Project Tango enables an untethered, handheld experience that does not rely on external tracking technology such as markers, beacons or GPS.

Accenture’s design-led development of this solution means that the process of making decisions about cars will be completely transformed with the new generation of mobile devices.

FCA is the first automotive brand to use this type of digital car configuration tool. Today’s car configurators are essentially flat, so with this tool FCA customers could have a more interesting and immersive experience.

Although many designers still use the traditional way of understanding what the final product will look like through clay modeling, AR and VR are fast taking over as far superior technologies to ascertain the positive and negative details of a product before going into actual production.

The AR and VR advantage is obvious as compared to a clay model. Designers as well as potential customers could experience a full-scale car including a complete sensory experience and the designers could get valuable feedback long before the automobile reaches production stage.