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Ford studying virtual reality potential

Virtual insanity: Ford envisages that new technologies will allow customers to experiences its cars through virtual and augmented reality from the comfort of their own homes.

Virtual and augmented reality to showcase Ford cars without leaving the house

4 Apr 2017

FORD is exploring the possibility of leveraging virtual reality (VR) technologies to allow customers to explore and test drive its cars from the comfort of their own homes.

The new technology – which will also include augmented reality (AR) programs – is being developed at the Ford immersive Virtual Environment (FiVE) lab in Melbourne, which also allows the brand’s designers and engineers to inspect digital designs before putting them into production.

According to Ford, “enabling customers to try out different models at a time and place to suit them – and for as long as they want – VR could also mean customers have a much clearer idea of which car they want before they even step into a dealership”.

Car-makers could benefit greatly from the wide adoption of VR and AR technologies, as the tech would eliminate the need for customers to set foot in a physical showroom.

It would also be advantageous for the customer, who could browse the virtual dealership whenever suitable and experience a simulated test drive of the product, as well as cutting out the interaction with a salesperson.

Many car manufacturers have toyed with the idea of providing a virtual showroom and digital car experience to customers including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota and Nissan, who all have videos uploaded to YouTube that allows a full 360-degree camera control.

Ford Motor Company global digital experience chief Jeffrey Nowak said the potential of the emerging technologies is limitless.

“It really is a blank canvas,” he said. “It is easy to imagine that someone who wants to buy an SUV could experience taking that car for a test drive over desert dunes without leaving the comfort of their home.

“Likewise, if you’re in the market for a city car you could be at home, relaxing in your PJs and fit in trying out the peak-time school run after you’ve put the kids to bed.”

Mr Nowak also said the simulations could be tailored to each individual requirement and the cars would be virtually specified to their desires.

“We envisage that one day a customer could identify the model they are interested in – from the colour, to the exact finish of their interior – and the time and place they would like to simulate,” he said. “That scenario could then be recreated on a bespoke basis.

“There really is no limit to the depth of detail. The possibilities are endless.”

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