The car showroom of the future might just be in your living room
Microsoft and Volvo team up to demonstrate how HoloLens technology will transform the way we buy vehicles.
If you're anything like millions of other car buyers around the world, the first thing you generally do before visiting a car showroom is hop on your laptop to explore potential vehicles. Thanks to the Internet, we can watch videos, read reviews and explore in depth the details and features once only available after a physical trip to a dealership. But what if our connected world took things one step further? What if you could summon a vehicle you were interested in and have it appear in the middle of your living room?
Swedish auto giant Volvo has partnered with U.S.-based Microsoft to make this possibility, once relegated to the world of science fiction, a (virtual) reality for its millions of customers. The carmaker is leveraging Microsoft's augmented reality headset, HoloLens, to present full-scale interactive holograms of its future vehicles. The technology, partly developed at Microsoft's ever-expanding R&D lab in northern Israel, offers immersive holographic experiences overlaid on real-world environments. The lightweight goggles are expected to debut to developers and businesses sometime next year.
So how might a HoloLens experience differ from that of the traditional auto showroom? Initially, the prospective buyer would still have to visit with a dealership. Instead of a brochure, however, the salesperson would hand out a HoloLens. Customers would then be able to witness a virtual car built from the ground up in front of their eyes.
"You can do something you've never been able to do before. You can see the soul of the car," Aric Dromi, chief futurologist at Volvo, says in a video. "You can strip the body out and stay with the skeleton and you can play around with it."
More than just high-tech eye candy, Volvo sees these simulations as particularly useful for demonstrating the company's extensive safety features.
"No one understands how car sensors actually work today," adds Dromi. "Through the HoloLens, you can see how the car perceives you. And then you give me as a human being the vantage point of a sensor. It helps to build a much better trust in this type of system."
Once the HoloLens becomes a general consumer device, a scenario that's still about five years away, consumers will be able to skip the showroom altogether and bring full-scale holographic vehicles to explore in their own homes. Volvo is embracing this untethered experience as well, with plans to launch pop-up stores in places where traditional dealerships would have a red light.
“We are extremely happy to innovate with Microsoft in the field of future mobility,” said Klas Bendrik, senior vice president and chief information officer at Volvo Cars. “Today’s technology will allow us to achieve not only a more sustainable and crash-free future but also new benefits for our customers and society. Together with Microsoft we aim to pioneer in this field.”
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