At its height, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many auto showrooms to close their doors. As the pandemic persists, many consumers are still hesitant to let their socially distanced guard down.
To solve this dilemma for its dealers in the UK, BMW has launched a web-based AR experience that serves as an immersive augmented reality showroom.
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The BMW Virtual Viewer displays three of BMW's Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs), namely the X5, X1, and 3 Series Touring, although BMW plans to add more models to the viewer as they launch.
The AR experience allows you to scale the size of the virtual models and change the color, wheels, and interior. You can also explore the interior and interact with features of the car, including opening doors, turning on lights, and playing songs on the stereo. Hotspots throughout the experience provide more information about each vehicle.
What sets this experience apart from others is the addition of a virtual assistant. By holding down the blue button on your touchscreen, you can ask the chatbot for more information about the vehicles, such as driving range, or take quizzes.
"At BMW we want to ensure that we introduce digital tools in a way that really help prospective customers along their decision journey when choosing a car, whilst ensuring it's fun and user friendly," said Sophie Chiappe, brand communications manager for BMW, in a statement. "This AR work has been designed to be engaging to use, from the navigation through to the built-in quizzes, and we're excited to launch it showcasing three of our plug-in hybrid cars and the technology they offer."
To try it out for yourself, visit the BMW Virtual Viewer website via your mobile browser. (Unlike other web-based AR tools, there is no need to scan a QR code.)
The virtual showroom was conceived by creative agency FCB Inferno and built by creative studios Antiloop and CRAFT using the 8th Wall Web platform. The experience also serves as a showcase for one of the newer features of the platform, namely, reflective surfaces, which results in highly realistic 3D models of the autos.
BMW has experimented with multiple methods of delivering AR experiences to promote its products. It broke ground as the first company to use the Augmented Trial Lens in Snapchat. The company has also launched the BMW i Visualizer app for iOS and Android that enabled prospective buyers to view customized models in their physical space via ARKit and ARCore, respectively.
Its latest tactic follows the path blazed by Toyota in leveraging web-based AR, which does not require consumers to install an app or be a member of a social network like Snapchat or Facebook.
What we're really excited about seeing, though, is how BMW and other automakers are bringing new AR features to their vehicles, such as the windshield concept BMW previewed previously. But using AR in marketing is a great start.
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