SINGAPORE — The advances made in Augmented Reality (AR) and smartphone technology have taken shopping to a whole new level, what with users now able to make hyper-realistic virtual versions of the product appear on their phones.
You can, for example, see how that dress looks on you, or whether its colour matches what you have in your wardrobe.
But what if you are shopping for a new car? Have you ever wondered what your new ride might look like in a colour that is different from that of the showroom model? Or how about checking what the car would look like in your parking spot?
BMW is one of the first car companies to have caught onto this burgeoning trend with the launch of its latest AR app.
This week, BMW Asia and Asus Global announced that the BMW i Augmented Reality (AR) Visualiser app would be available for download from the Google Play Store.
The BMW i AR Visualiser makes use of Tango, a technology developed by Google that the tech giant plans to make the standard for AR on Android-based smartphones.
For Tango to work to its fullest potential, the smartphone must be equipped with a three-camera system that consists of a 23-megapixel main camera with a motion-tracking camera as well as a depth-sensing camera.
Working in tandem, the Tango-enabled smartphone will be able to accurately render a life-sized virtual image that can be made to appear anywhere.
In the case of the BMW i AR Visualiser, the first cars to be available on this app are the BMW i3 and i8 range of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
In the BMW app, these cars are rendered to include the tiniest detail: The user can view every part of the vehicle, whether it is the interior or even the mechanical components underneath the car.
While being able to virtually conjure up a car with your smartphone is a cool feat in itself; on the practical side, this technology helps customers select colour combinations, wheel options or other accessories before committing to a choice.
In many cases, the car may not be on display in the colour and combination a customer may want, but the BMW i AR Visualiser can let you see what their car could look like.
“Our customers are extremely tech savvy,and it’s important that we transform the way we interact with them, even before they enter our showroom,” said Preeti Gupta, director of Corporate Affairs, BMW Group Asia.
“With the BMW i Visualiser, customers can explore our products in a truly interactive and fun way, making the online-offline experience more compelling.
“Our vehicles are emotional products and to get that emotional feeling, you really need to experience them.”
Besides BMW cars, other retailers from various industries ranging from home appliances to fashion labels are creating their apps with Google’s Tango technology. Imagine trying to fit out your living room with furniture — a Tango-powered app can place the product’s likeness in the space so you can see what the furniture might look like or how it would fit there.
To make the AR experience as realistic and smooth as possible, Asus has equipped its Zenfone with the latest Qualcomm Sanpdragon 821 CPU optimised for Tango. It also the first smartphone on the market with 8GB of RAM. Similarly, Asus also pulled out all the stops with its 5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED display.
There will eventually be more smartphones that run on the Android operating system that are Tango-enabled.
For now, however, the Asus Zenfone AR is the next best thing to having an actual BMW in your driveway. Sheldon Trollope