Augmented Reality Drives An Immersive Car-Buying Experience

Despite the buzz, the adoption of virtually reality (VR) will not be widespread outside the world of gaming and entertainment for several years. But a more popular and feasible technology that has been getting traction is augmented reality (AR), which will play a key role in transforming the digital commerce experience. 

We believe that the future of commerce will be much more natural, intimate, content-rich, and immersive:

  • Natural, as new user interfaces will remove frictions from the buying process. Just look at how Amazon Alexa and Google Home are (re-)establishing voice as an interface in a world dominated by screens. 
  • Intimate, as artificial intelligences will know our environments, preferences, and emotional states, and then offer us or even order directly what we need.
  • Content-rich, as we move from today’s rudimentary product catalogs and to highly personalized content with high-definition product and service previews.

Immersive, the fourth aspect of the future commerce experience, is where various car manufacturers and sellers are now starting to position themselves as front-runners. AR technology enables a new type of buying/showroom experience, bringing photo-realistic, virtual cars on consumers’ mobile devices.

This is nothing short of a revolution for an industry still deeply rooted in physical product experiences. The latest AR car apps give people the capability to project, configure, and experience them anytime, anywhere–finally delivering what auto original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and dealers have expected from the technology for some time.

Take the new Jeep Compass, for instance. With the use of the mobile application “Jeep Compass Visualizer,” customers can easily experience the look and feel of the inside of the car using the app’s AR feature.

The app, introduced at Jeep’s dealerships in selected markets in Europe, allows customers to walk around and look inside the new Jeep Compass even before it is physically available in the showroom.

Or take BMW, which released the “BMW i Visualizer”–an app allowing users to experience BMW’s i3 and i8 vehicles on smartphones and tablets. Car buyers can choose which of the i-series models they wish to view and select a range of options for the car, such as exterior colors and wheels, and make changes to upholstery colors and the dashboard with a tap on the device screen.

Users can even use the app to turn on the radio and listen to music, as well as turn on the engine and lights.

The Technology
Both the Jeep and BMW apps were developed on Tango–Google’s smartphone AR technology. It gives mobile devices the ability to navigate the physical world, resembling human interactions. Tango brings a new kind of spatial perception to Android devices by adding advanced computer vision, image processing, and special vision sensors.

A Tango-enabled device has a 360-degree view, which means that as it moves, it navigates and views the changing environment in the same way a person would. As the car is viewed through the device, the virtual car moves in relation to how the user moves. This provides a highly realistic and intuitive experience for the user and demonstrates an immersive AR experience without requiring GPS or internet connectivity.

The Opportunity
AR apps have evolved from point-of-sale gadgets to powerful platforms supporting the showroom experience. They are a tangible example of how digital is transforming the overall commerce process and elevating the overall customer experience, which will become much more natural, intimate, content-rich, and–above all–immersive.

In the auto industry, interested customers will no longer have to first go to a dealership to experience their dream car. Instead, they will be able to visualize and configure their preferred settings–for instance, at home, seeing what their car will look like in front of their garage.

Dealers, on the other hand, can use the next-gen apps to showcase virtual versions of cars they don’t even have in stock in the precise configuration their customers want. Some are able to gather the digital data on their customer’s pre-visit research activity and take this into account when the customer visits a showroom, making the entire process more efficient and seamless.

In short, AR allows businesses to provide a better, smoother customer experience that bridges the gap between the web and the showroom. It brings the car-buying experience into the digital realm–in a way that will be easier to use, more immersive, and therefore much more emotional than any website, online video, or car visualizer has ever been.

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