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Toyota’s Use of Augmented Reality is a Revolution in the Car Buying Process

Just when you thought augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) had fallen off the creative drawing board, Saatchi & Saatchi, a British multinational communications and advertising agency network, brought it back to the forefront in a new immersive experience with Japanese auto manufacturer Toyota. This immersive AR experience will lead the auto industry in what is sure to be an increasing move toward digital transformation in the form of AR and MR.

Saatchi & Saatchi and Toyota are no strangers to using bold tech in the auto market. Saatchi & Saatchi had created an immersive print ad that allowed readers to experience the “new car smell,” as well as other tech features. Readers opened the insert by placing their thumbs on a metallic door sensor, which activated a leather scent, measured their heart rate, and sent data to a monitor registering heartbeat with LCD and sounds. This latest round of Toyota’s immersive AR experience, however, seems to be a truer use case for AR for the automotive industry at large.

Toyota’s immersive AR experience brought virtual vehicles to consumers across the United States so they could experience them up close and personal. The coolest part is that they’ll do this without requiring users to download a specific app to their mobile devices. Instead, the AR experience was delivered at scale through digital media. For instance, users can simply click a banner ad on a social media page, and Toyota’s AR experience will launch. “This innovative AR technology allows Toyota to engage with guests like never before. It creates a highly engaging online vehicle experience, and highlights Toyota models in a personalized way for each guest,” according to Cynthia Tenhouse, Vice President, Vehicle Marketing and Communications, at Toyota Motor North America.

Using transformative 3D and AR technology, Toyota’s immersive AR experience models the exteriors of 10 different car models. The company believes it can offer a rich digital experience much closer to walking around a real car than any video or imagery could ever provide. From there, consumers can place the AR vehicle in any environment (in their driveway or garage, in front of their office, etc) and walk around the vehicle to explore it at any angle. They can expand and rotate the vehicle to explore each feature in detail and get a very real sense of what owning the vehicle would feel like.

Each virtual vehicle in Toyota’s immersive AR experience includes a different lifestyle experience, built to appeal to a specific buyer. Customers will also see the most important and relevant standard features called out as they use the AR, be it All-wheel drive, cargo capacity, etc.

Toyota’s immersive AR experience is the equivalent of allowing a customer to experience virtual reality without the heavy goggles. There’s no app to download, no slow processing time, just a seamless ability to place a very real car in your very real home using AR and MR.

“Augmented Reality technology is groundbreaking because it empowers every consumer to shop using 3D representations of their products in Augmented Reality, simulating an in-store experience online from just a mobile phone.  The AR platform makes it easy to create and manage high-fidelity and lightweight 3D assets, and deploy and measure 3D & AR experiences seamlessly across any digital environment. The future of ad engagement is all about personalized experiences at scale. This AR technology helps consumers, deep dive, into 10 Toyota models, creating a unique, immersive shopping environment.” Saatchi & Saatchi’s Executive Creative Director, Chris Pierantozzi said.

This product showed that AR doesn’t have to be challenging, clunky, or app-based. Also showed that industries can now model their products to people hundreds or thousands of miles awhile. It opened up new markets and removed barriers, and that’s what AR and MR are all about. Just like dressing rooms that offer AR to show what a new bathing suit looks like without forcing you to try it on, the tech doesn’t necessarily remove the in-person step from the shopping experience, but it makes it easier for everyone.

A point worth mentioning is that while AR for test drives seems like one of the most obvious use cases for the automotive industry, that’s not the only area in which AR could be helpful. For instance, Toyota’s AR Interactive Guide developed by CaptivatAR,  allows one to explore all the features of cars, it works as an interactive user manual, that can be used for end users as well as dealerships and includes HD 360 VR pictures, for users that want to learn without being in the car.

As AR and MR technology continues to advance, their use will become more common. The successful implementation of the experience mentioned by Saatchi & Saatchi and Toyota may lead other brands to consider how AR and MR can be used to enhance their customers’ experience. At this stage, the best approach for brand managers remains to explore the capabilities of these emerging technologies on a case-by-case basis.

Get to know your customers and ensure that you can make their life easier and more playful. You can take a look at what we have developed at CaptivatAR, and create your own AR implementation (or use other XR technologies).

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