When it comes to building luxury cars, Bentley certainly knows what it's doing. However, when it comes to building an AR app, Bentley is looking less Continental GT and more Geo Metro.
At least that's our initial take after sampling the company's new AR app, called Bentley 100 AR, which was released earlier this week.
Still, Bentley deserves praise for entering the world of augmented reality, following the growing trend of using AR for automotive marketing. It's a great promotional tool that allows customers to get a good look at a car by placing it in AR right in front of them. No more trips to the dealership, and no more having to wear a monocle and tuxedo to feel welcome in a Bentley showroom.
Using the app, you can get a truly up-close look at the new EXP 100 GT concept car (although, only in miniature size, as it doesn't scale up to life-sized dimensions). What's interesting is the clunky, old-school nature of the app itself (available for free on iOS devices). The interface is smooth enough, with a voice-guided tour of the car listing off its features, but it's getting the app to that point that requires additional, archaic steps. Bentley requires that you print out a paper graphic marker (basically, stone age AR tech at this point), which serves as the anchor point for the AR car.
Even when pointing your smartphone camera at the image on a high-resolution MacBook retina display, it still won't work. You need to physically print out the QR code, which feels very clunky, and low-tech. Also, it's wasting my expensive printer ink.
Only a handful of people can actually afford a Bentley, but no one can afford the Bentley EXP 100 GT — because, as a concept car, it's not for sale (yet). So the only way to really get a good look at this vehicle is in AR. Select Bentley dealers around the world will actually have their own version of the QR code on the floor of their showroom. This will bring up a full-scale 3D model of the car you can actually walk around.
Ironically, the car is more advanced than the app and its relatively primitive marker-based AR. The EXP 100 GT is an all-electric vehicle and was "inspired by the company's deep understanding of the desires of its intelligent, forward-thinking customers," according to Bentley.
The company also claims that the vehicle "embraces Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a means to reassert the car as a place for creating, experiencing and capturing extraordinary human experiences and emotions." Additionally, the vehicle has a self-driving mode and can go from zero to 60 mph in under 2.5 seconds, reaching a top speed of 186 mph.
But that's not all, Bentley went into James Bond territory with this concept car. The integrated AI doesn't simply drive the vehicle when you want a hands-free experience, it also uses biometric sensors to determine the most comfortable seating positions, track passenger eye movements, body temperature, and blood pressure.
Alas, Bentley must've put all of its forward-thinking into developing the car, because this advanced tech approach just isn't apparent in the app. Forcing people to use paper as part of their AR experience goes against the whole point of digital technology.
Maybe since printer ink is so expensive, this is a deliberate hurdle to keep plebeians away from even digital representations of their luxury vehicle? Jokes aside, once the app is up and running, and the printed AR marker is adequately lit, this is possibly the closest most of us will ever come to owning our own Bentley.