Ford Rolls Out VR Try Before You Buy
March 29, 2017
The advent of virtual reality (VR)
technology is predicted to fundamentally change the way we live over the
Cinemas will immerse audiences in VR
movies, patients will undergo VR treatment and customers will enter the
world of the products or services they are interested in, enabling a
whole new dimension to the idea of sampling, or trying new things out.
Cars are no different.
More than ever before Ford is integrating VR into the way it designs its
vehicles. And the company is now starting to explore how the technology
could change the retail experience.
“It really is a blank canvas. 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,” said
Jeffrey Nowak, global digital experience chief, Ford Motor Company.
“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.”
Shoppers online can already try before they buy to find out how new
glasses or clothes might suit them, or even what a new car might look
like outside their home. But according to Sheryl Connelly, Ford global
trend and futuring manager, they are also sometimes baffled by an
overwhelming choice that leads to “Decider’s Dilemma”. **
“With the internet, consumers face an abundance of choice – impacting
their attitudes toward commitment,” said Connelly. “Products and
services are adapting to accommodate a ‘sampling society’ that
prioritises trying over buying.”
The biggest trigger of car sales, after practical financial issues, is
“purely emotional” *** and the test drive can be a crucial “first date”
for the shopper and their potential next car. By 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. It
could even enable customers to experience the unique new car smell of
their preferred vehicle.
Ford is currently exploring the potential of a range of virtual and
augmented reality technologies to layer digital holograms onto the real
world that could within the next decade allow people to interact with
every aspect of products at their convenience.
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. That scenario could
then be recreated on a bespoke basis,” said Nowak. “There really is no
limit to the depth of detail. The possibilities are endless.”
Ford already makes extensive use of VR in design. A state-of-the-art
facility within the Design Studio, in Cologne, in Germany, allows
designers to fully experience a vehicle without the need for a physical
prototype. This enables them to perfect the look of high quality
materials, craftsmanship and finish more quickly and efficiently. For
the all-new Ford Fiesta, designers were able to experience and confirm
location of vehicle controls, dashboard layout and seating positions.
“People decide within three minutes if they love a product or not, and
it is the same for your car,” said Amko Leenarts, Ford’s head of global
interior design operations. “From the moment you get in, you form
connections with the smell, the feel of the surfaces, or the sound of
the car door closing and it’s very powerful if we – as designers – can
help create the perfect experience for the customer.”