Augmented Reality was once not too long ago the stuff science-fiction was made of. The young and the old wanted a system like Tony Stark’s JARVIS which understood gestures, could overlay information on items and, at the end of the day, did as he was told although with poor grace sometimes. Compared to the rest of its capabilities, JARVIS’s AR was by and large dismissed as something too fantastic for our lifetime. How could a computer mimic such an activity?
Augmented Reality is no longer the domain of the rich, the brilliant and, importantly, the chosen few. In the past few years, it has made tremendous strides in harnessing the computing power available on handheld devices, becoming a practical - and increasingly necessary - tool for everything from training to marketing. In fact, from an industry that saw a few million dollars invested in it as recently as the turn of this decade, Augmented Reality is now poised to become a $120-Bn industry by the end of it.
A major reason for this has been the way Augmented Reality has been demonstrably effective in certain use-cases. Medical trainers, for example, are increasing their use of Augmented Reality in clinics and hospitals, reducing the learning times of their students without putting students at risk. It has helped in explaining complex conditions to practitioners, care-giving administrators and patients. Augmented Reality in education has made books livelier, more interesting (to those who prefer the digital medium) and concurrent. Augmented Reality in Real Estate has brought down selling efforts, while Augmented Reality in industrial settings is used to train employees on how to use, maintain, breakdown and repair machines.
Another industry that has woken up to the benefits of Augmented Reality is the Automotive Industry. Unlike in its heydays, automobiles no longer sell solely on the basis of their looks. Customers are worried about safety, emissions, safeguards, etc. And in an industry suffering from a higher-than-average attrition rate, it is not always easy to find employees who are willing to learn enough about a model to come across as a knowledgeable salesperson. But it would be wrong to suggest that AR’s foray into the automotive world is restricted to the cosmetics of marketing.
Here are some of the ways in which the automotive industry is being driven (or will soon be, in certain cases) by AR applications:
1) As Marketing Collateral
Some companies, such as BMW and Tesla, have already released AR-enabled touchpoints for their models as part of their marketing campaigns. These AR applications act as virtual tours of the machine, explaining its brightest features and bringing an end to the limitations of having to physically see a car to be able to appreciate the thought that has gone into its design.
2) Virtual Test-drives
It’s now possible to experience a car inside and out through the use of AR and VR. One of our platforms, sayARa (which is the Arabic word for cars), demonstrates these capabilities of AR for a single model, but it is possible to scale this up to cover as many models, variants and scenarios as possible. An AR-driven (if you will pardon the pun) test drive can include a walk-around of the vehicle, rotating and zooming in and out to see things in greater detail, changing the colors, styling and accessories on the fly, ‘dismantling’ the car into its components, examining each component in detail, customization and order-booking. Of course, it might not be as awesome as feeling the purr of the engine rise up your spine, but it can very easily be the next best thing!
3) As a Service Support Tool
Automobiles are growing not only in numbers, but in the complex and innovative technologies which are meant for better safety and comfort to the customer. To help manage these growing complexities of vehicles, service technicians can be guided on their tasks through AR overlays that add context and instructions to the part in question. Workers can be trained with step-by-step instructions on how to break down, repair, maintain and reassemble parts. There are already applications in the market that are AR based where real and virtual parts are shown in 3D, including their correlation with each other.
4) In Design and R&D
According to industry estimates, the R&D and design of a new car adds at least 30 to 40% of its initial production costs. A large part of this costing is due to the design iterations a car must be subjected to before it can find the right mix of looks, weight and performance to make it a financially viable option. Until now, with limited visualization options and localized test groups, manufacturers had to limit themselves to designs they were already comfortable with.
Not any more. Many Japanese and European manufacturers have already taken to running sampling tests with AR-based applications. This has helped them reach out to multiple customer groups and get feedback that is closer to what the real world would give them - because these test groups can now get as good a feel for the vehicles as if they were physically available for their inspection.
It is not just the manufacturers who are investing in AR solutions these days. Even showrooms are building AR apps to impress their walk-ins with such experiences. This not only brings down the actual wear and tear on display vehicles but also keeps the customer engaged even when a test-drive vehicle is not immediately available to him/her. Through a mix of online and offline interactions, the customer stands a greater chance of being impressed by the product; naturally, there is a greater possibility of closing the sale with such a customer.
Note: Plutomen, one of the best Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality company in India, is motivated and committed towards offering innovative solutions to different industries. We have designed and developed an Automotive AR Application – sayARa. Using this application, when scanned the target image, the user can view the car in 3D. Upon clicking on the headlights and backlights, they can turn on\off the headlights and backlights of the car. The user can play with different colour variants according to their choice. The application also allows the user to view the entire car’s interior and exterior in 360 degree. Upon selecting the driving mode, the customer can experience how the vehicle would look like on the road in the real environment.