The car buying experience has changed a lot since the early days. We have come a long way from Henry Ford’s famous quote “The customer can have any color they want, as long as its black”. Now, there are hundreds of options available for new cars and buyers can get a look at what they look like through an online configurator. However, even an online configurator is starting to feel a bit dated. Really, configuring a car online is basically just a webpage widget that can photoshop a byer’s options in to an image of the car in question on the fly. Audi is experimenting with a way to make the customization experience deeper through the use of virtual reality.
Essentially buyers will be able to put on a VR headset (and headphones) and virtually move around a car that is optioned out to their spec. They can even “sit” in the car with the leather and infotainment they chose and look all around the interior thanks to the help of a head-tracking camera. Options can also be instantaneously changed out and called up so the buyer can check out different combinations. A full audio experience will be integrated as well so that users can hear everything from the doors closing to how a particular car’s sound system, well, sounds…
If you’re having trouble envisioning what this experience would be like, imagine using Forzavista mode from Forza Motorsport but while wearing an Oculus Rift VR headset. In fact, Audi mentions that if this tech experience aids in sales they may look into pushing this into the home rather than buyers only being able to partake in the experience at dealerships. I imagine that when tech like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and other consumer level VR headseats are more common, these experiences from Audi will simply be downloadable.
If you think Audi’s use of this tech is in the distant future guess again. They are actually experimenting with it now in their booth at the Detroit Auto Show and Audi hopes to have the first dealerships equipped with their VR tech by the end of this year. For a closer look click the thumbnails below.
Now, if only there was some kind of breathing apparatus so that they could add the new cars smell…
Audi VR experience: the dealership in a briefcase
- Innovative virtual reality headset extends advisory service at Audi dealers
- Sales chief Luca de Meo: “Further proof of Audi’s pioneering role in sphere of digitization”
- First Audi dealerships to introduce new sales tool by end of 2015The Audi VR experience gives customers the opportunity to configure their preferred car at the dealership through virtual reality headsets and experience it in a unprecedentedly realistic way. The headset showcases the entire model portfolio of the four rings, including all possible equipment combinations. Audi has become the first automotive manufacturer to develop a dedicated retail software solution for virtual reality headsets.Audi is taking the next big step in integrating digital technologies into automotive retail: The Audi VR experience gives customers the opportunity to configure their preferred car at the dealership through virtual reality headsets and experience it in a unprecedentedly realistic way. The headset showcases the entire model portfolio of the four rings, including all possible equipment combinations. Audi has become the first automotive manufacturer to develop a dedicated retail software solution for virtual reality headsets.
Luca de Meo, Member of the Board of Management for Sales and Marketing at AUDI AG, presented the Audi VR experience this week on the sidelines of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit: “Hand in hand with our dealers, we are bringing digital innovations into the dealership in order to improve convenience and to provide even better advice. With the Audi VR experience, we are once again demonstrating the pioneering role of the four rings in this area.”
With the innovative technology, customers and prospective buyers experience the virtual Audi world on a new level – in three dimensions, with all sound effects, and almost life‑like. They can virtually take a seat behind the wheel of their individually configured dream car or take a look in the trunk. A camera tracks the movements of the user’s head and the system adapts the image displayed accordingly. The full spectrum of the Audi model range, with respective customization options, can be called up: colors, leathers, inlays as well as infotainment systems. The dealer is thus able to demonstrate the diversity of the Audi portfolio in a very convenient way and to provide individual advice to the visitor.
Audi will bring the new sales tool to first dealers by the end of this year – with particular focus on dynamic growth markets where high sales increase for AUDI AG is being accompanied by expansion of the dealer capacity. In future, it will also be possible to provide the Audi VR experience away from the dealership as a mobile solution – while visiting the customer at home, for example.
Thanks to their large field of view and the performant positional and movement tracking, Virtual Reality headsets offer excellent immersion – the observer feels fully integrated into the scene presented. In use at the Audi dealer, VR headsets obtain the extremely detailed data records for the vehicle models from a high‑performance computer that assures superior image reproduction. The Audi VR experience is also equipped with high-end headphones by Bang & Olufsen. They transmit the full range of acoustic information, from the sound of the doors closing to the 14‑channel sound of the Advanced Sound System in the Audi A8 and the conversation with the customer consultant.
AUDI AG has already been pioneering the use of virtual reality in automotive sales since 2012, blending digital innovation with the strengths and services of the physical dealership: Audi City, the cyberstore with a real presence, displays the brand’s automobiles on ceiling‑height digital powerwalls on a very life‑like 1:1 scale. There, visitors are able to configure their individual dream car step by step.
Occupying only little space and offering exclusive services, Audi City complements the brand’s sales networks in prominent downtown locations of major international cities. This year, Moscow will be joining London, Beijing and Berlin as the next Audi City location. In addition, AUDI AG has refined technological components of the digital showroom for use at classic dealerships. In 2014, technical modules from Audi City went into use at the first 16 European pilot dealers. The digitization of around 200 more locations worldwide is planned this year.