I first realized that Pokémon Go was changing the world when I saw the signs on the New Jersey Turnpike:
Don’t Pokémon Go While Driving!
This was a little startling. I knew all about the game, but didn’t realize it had reached such a critical mass of acceptance and enthusiasm until I saw roadway warning signs. Indeed, upon a little research, I learned that Pokémon Go had turned the world upside down. According to AppInstitute.com, daily time spent on the game (iOS) is an astounding 33 minutes – about 10 minutes longer than Facebook. In the U.S. alone, the app has 23 million peak active users, more than any other game by a healthy margin. And get this: in the five minutes or so it took to write this passage, the game was downloaded over 210,000 times.
All this success, while partially due to the latent popularity of the trading card game from the 90s, is driven by Augmented Reality. Also referred to as AR, the technology places a computer generated image on a user’s actual real view. From a commerce point of view, it’s a powerful tool – and has been steadily moving toward the mainstream for a while. But investment hit the turbo button last year: According to CB Insights and eMarketer,investment in AR jumped from $144 million in Q1 2015 to $238 million in Q4 – then exploded to $1.08 billion in Q1 2016.
All that investment is beginning to show up – and one place we might see more of it is at the dealership. Earlier this year at the Mobile World Congress, in fact, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) unveiled an AR car configurator, built by Accenture Digital and using Google’s Tango developer kit. The prototype showed how people could interact with a full scale version of a car; Accenture’s objective is to enable a buyer to use a mobile device to “walk freely around a full-scale vehicle in almost any environment.” It’s possible because Tango enables an untethered, handheld experience free of external tracking technology like GPS. According to TechCrunch (in an article found here), Tango gives devices a sense of location – a sense of “where they are in a room, and what’s around them.”
The first device enabled with Tango is scheduled to debut this September. Like FCA, chances are it won’t be long before more dealerships and automakers start experimenting with AR. Indeed, from a global perspective, quite a few automakers are already engaged in testing the technology, including Ford, Land Rover, Ferrari, Porsche, Audi and others. For dealerships, one only needs to imagine the walk-around and F&I product sales possibilities to see how effective this technology can be, and how it can be used to blend the online and in-store experience. Ferrari, for example, has used AR to reveal additional information and features while a customer is walking around a model in the showroom. Land Rover has leveraged the technology to showcase upcoming models. With a prototype at the dealership, a customer can experience an actual preview of the features upcoming. On the F&I side, buyers would view their vehicle as it would look equipped with aftermarket items – creating a very personal approach.
Of course, it’s fun to gaze into the looking glass and see what types of technology may be coming down the road that will help dealers create a more interactive and effective car sales experience. It’s pretty likely, though, that AR is headed to dealerships – and soon – in some capacity. That makes a lot of sense, because let’s face it: as automotive retail continues to evolve and transform, technology like Augmented Reality could very well be an ideal way to bring the two together, and create a total immersive and blended experience within the showroom.