As the purveyors of a high ticket item, automotive manufacturers and retailers have always been more than happy to experiment with new technology in the pursuit of profit. Today’s car buyers are more savvy and more careful than ever before, and virtual reality is the most recent tool being used to keep cars rolling off the line and into consumers’ driveways.
According to Bloomberg, in-home VR is a $1 billion industry in 2016, and is expected to grow to $21 billion by 2020. The automotive industry is taking advantage of VR in a number of ways, including letting potential buyers use that in-home gear to check out their next ride. There are other interesting things happening in the space, too, from stunning PR stunts at trade shows to incredibly sophisticated design tools used by top automotive engineers. Here are some of the most important things happening in the space.
5 – Lexus Leverages Virtual Reality in Car Design
VR is a natural space in which to perform initial testing of a new car design. Today, the technology is a key part of how car manufacturer Lexus creates their cutting-edge safety features. Lexus is known for advanced warning features that notify drivers of impending dangers, and can even help keep them alert during long drives. The Driving Simulator, though prosaically named, is a highly advanced virtual reality automotive tool that can evaluate every aspect of a vehicle without ever going on the road.
The Driving Simulator is essentially a highly specialized VR Cave. A real-life Lexus is secured within a dome lined with projection screens that display scenery of bustling cities, countryside, or empty highways. The dome itself is equipped with cylinders that tilt or rotate, allowing the car to realistically move to simulate acceleration, braking, and turns. The car itself becomes the controller, giving the driver a perfectly accurate virtual reality car driving experience.
Drivers are monitored for signs of drowsiness or other unsafe behaviors while progressing through the simulation. The design teams at Lexus use this data to optimize safety and warning features, ensuring that Lexus remains best in class in this area.
4 – EVOX Images is the Showroom of the Virtual Reality Automotive Industry
The first few steps in shopping for a new car have always been a bit inconvenient for most consumers. In the US alone, there are 226 car models available in 2016. Investigating each of them firsthand would require visits to countless showrooms, an impossible task. Although printed materials and the Internet helps potential buyers to narrow down their choices, they are a poor substitute for seeing a vehicle in person, sitting inside it, or going for a test drive.
Automotive stock photography firm EVOX Images hopes to improve that initial shopping experience with virtual reality. The company has become a de facto VR development firm, creating 3D simulations of cars for the benefit of consumers. Since January 2015, EVOX has taken virtual reality imagery of over 1,000 cars, including custom projects for MINI USA and others.
Although most of the VR experiences offered by EVOX are somewhat rudimentary, they nonetheless represent a quantum leap forward in car shopping. They are a proof of concept of sorts, validating virtual reality in automotive sales. In the future, it seems almost assured that car shoppers will spend time flipping through VR catalogs on their HMDs, before they ever set foot in a showroom.
3 – Mitsubishi: An Early Adopter in Virtual Reality Automotive
Manufacturing giant Mitsubishi has been leveraging virtual reality in car production for years, as well as in other equipment. The trend began in 2013, when the firm’s industrial equipment arm, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, first began using VR to prototype new designs in the digital realm. With virtual reality, designers could check the usability and ease of maintenance of new products before starting up the production line. For example, a virtual model could show places where workers might find it awkward to fit their hands.
Mitsubishi has continued to leverage VR in multiple aspects of their business, including with their long-running virtual test drive program. Donning an Oculus Rift, potential customers since 2014 have been able to take the Outlander Phev electric car out for a spin without leaving the showroom. The experience includes driving the car into outer space, making it more of a flashy marketing piece than a serious tool to evaluate the car, but the program has proven a great success, and Mitsubishi still utilizes VR in their marketing today.
2 – Augmented and Virtual Reality Car Configurators
In early 2016, car conglomerate Fiat Chrysler announced their entry into the virtual reality automotive space. The prototype car configurator utilizes Google’s Project Tango to create a life-size virtual representation of a car. Users view the car through their smartphone and can walk around it to view from any angle. The doors of the car can even be opened and adjustments made to the upholstery or dashboard to view different configurations.
This isn’t the only car configurator leveraging AR and VR. At the Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan IDx demonstrated their new virtual reality car configurator. With the power of custom-branded Oculus-powered hardware, visitors to the show were asked “What if you could create your own car?” and then taken on a whirlwind tour of fanciful environments culminating in the opportunity to design and build a new virtual Nissan from scratch.
It was a flashy, splashy convergence of virtual reality and car design, allowing everyone to try their hand at creating the perfect ride. Although not available to the public as of yet, Nissan received a tremendous press response for the demo, and it seems likely they will release the app for general use in future.
1 – Vroom Takes Virtual Reality Automotive Sales to the Next Level
Used-car retailer Vroom recently announced plans to allow virtual visits to their real-life showrooms. Partnering with HTC, manufacturers of the popular Vive head-mounted display, Vroom plans to create virtual representations of their showrooms in Texas, Austin, and Phoenix. Digital visitors can move around the showroom, view the interiors and exteriors of the vehicles on display from any angle, and even take them for virtual test drives.
The Vroom offering is unique in that, unlike the abstract virtual reality automotive demonstrations by manufacturers, it is tied to Vroom’s actual inventory. Using VR, visitors can see what Vroom actually has in stock in their showrooms, and then purchase the vehicle through Vroom’s existing app or website. It’s a quantum leap forward in bringing the real world into the virtual. If successful, it could have a lasting influence on VR shopping across every market.
How AppReal-VR Can Help?
The automotive industry is set to reap the benefits of VR at every level, from initial design to the showroom floor. There are countless opportunities for innovators and visionaries to help the dawning virtual reality automotive industry revolution. The only two things needed are a strong idea and careful execution.
AppReal-VR is able to provide that execution. The VR development firm has been in business for years, and has remained at the cutting edge of technology. AppReal-VR is experienced in creating apps for desktop computers, mobile devices, and dedicated technology, and its satisfied clients span the world in both geography and industry.
Led by CEO Yariv Levski and using a forward-thinking agile development philosophy, AppReal-VR can bring your virtual reality ideas to life, in the automotive industry or in any other.