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In fact, both AR and virtual reality (VR) were front and center at the North American International Auto Show held in Detroit earlier this year. According to Engadget, at least five carmakers—Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen—used immersive technology to help promote new car models.
The border between the virtual and real world continues to break down, notes a report from Intel. VR generates realistic images, sounds and other sensations that put viewers at the center of an imaginary world. While AR adds virtual features to a real-world environment, such as simulating different views through the windshield of a car.
AR is well-suited for automotive marketing, says Vitaly Ponomarev, CEO of WayRay, an AR auto company. “In the automotive industry, AR can open unlimited opportunities for location-based content serving specific business purposes,” he says.
Of course, AR is already being used by car companies for targeted advertising and customized user experiences. Next, says Ponomarev, navigation and geolocation features will include an AR component that adjusts the user’s experience based on real-time environmental conditions. Moreover, he adds, app-maker Waze is testing how it can use AR functionality to help develop new social network experiences.
For now, AR is delivering on the promise of highlighting the latest, greatest technology being offered in new models. Honda’s new AR experience, for example, highlights prominent features in its new Accord model. In addition to providing a virtual tour of the vehicle, the HondaLens enables potential buyers to view different traffic scenarios as they are simulated through the windshield in front of them. From the passenger seat, swirling shapes guide users around the interior to highlight new technology features. Another cool feature in the Honda AR experience includes a holographic version of the new turbocharged engine as it floats out of the hood to show the viewer how the turbocharger works.
BMW is another early adopter of AR technology. It was the first brand worldwide to use the new Snapchat “Augmented Trial” lens — as part of its BMW X2, “Be the One Who Dares,” marketing campaign.
“Snapchat is young and modern – which suits BMW and the BMW X2 perfectly,” says Jörg Poggenpohl, BMW’s head of digital marketing. “We are enriching Snapchat users’ digital experience through content they find appealing, with a high recognition value. We wanted to insert ourselves in an organic way into the Snapchat environment and its users’ world. That is the most meaningful way to address our fans in a style that fits the channel and the target group.”
In addition to Snapchat, the BMW X2 campaign is using other digital marketing channels. For example, an innovative mixed-reality application was developed for the Microsoft HoloLens. BMW was also the first automotive brand to use augmented reality in the popular Shazam app.
Last year, BMW teamed-up with Accenture to develop the BMW i Visualiser app. According to Accenture, “this new immersive approach is transforming the way car buyers choose, configure, and make purchasing decisions, allowing them to view and interact with a full-scale virtual version of the car through an app.”
Matteo Aliberti, augmented commerce lead for Accenture Interactive, told The Financial Times that BMW’s AR app has wide-ranging implications for marketing. “This goes far beyond automotive,” he said. “This is going to change the way we buy things on the Internet.”