Build­ing the Fu­ture of Re­tail with Vir­tual Show­rooms

Industry Leaders - - Content Features -

With the cur­rent progress in vir­tual re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy, it’s now pos­si­ble to walk around such show­room spa­ces and in­ter­act with the ob­jects ly­ing around. It may not be long be­fore peo­ple can sim­ply strap a VR head­set and shop for their dream home, or fur­ni­ture, or a yacht with­out hav­ing to leave their homes.

Buy­ing your dream car can be stress­ful. You have to spend hours upon hours search­ing for the right one. It’s a time-con­sum­ing process, where you keep fil­ter­ing out in­ter­net pages look­ing for in­sight­ful re­views. Now, imag­ing do­ing all of this us­ing vir­tual re­al­ity - sit­ting in the com­fort of your home.

On­line used car seller Vroom has launched a vir­tual re­al­ity show­room, which lets buy­ers ex­plore upto 15 car mod­els in the com­fort of their homes (VR head­set, to be more spe­cific). The VR ex­pe­ri­ence has been cre­ated in part­ner­ship with Dal­las agency 900lbs of Cre­ative. It aims to al­low buy­ers to get a close look to their dream car via HTC Vive head­sets. The ex­pe­ri­ence will be avail­able in pop-up lo­ca­tions first, in Phoenix, along with Vroom show­rooms in Hous­ton and Dal­las.

Vroom’s chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer, Gau­rav Misra, says the aim is to pro­vide con­sumers added in­sight to help them feel more con­fi­dent when they’re buy­ing pre­mium ve­hi­cles. Vroom was es­tab­lished in 2014, and sells thou­sands of cars a month. Its to­tal monthly rev­enue is around $100 mil­lion, and is said to cross the $1 bil­lion mark this year.

So, how it works? Do you get to take a vir­tual test drive be­fore fi­nal­iz­ing on the one you fancy? Imag­ine, a vast ware­house or a garage, the kind filled with cars you like. By aim­ing the HTC Vive head­set at var­i­ous parts of the room, you can zoom into any model to get ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion about it. If you want to take the car for a spin, you can cruise it ahead of a pre-recorded 360-de­gree video of streets of Texas or Bos­ton. In fact, it’s quite sim­i­lar to the ways movie di­rec­tors set up screens be­hind ac­tors so they can over­lay a scenery. The drive would last for only a few sec­onds, and in fact, it also lacks the phys­i­cal sen­sa­tion of road bumps. So, in a way, it’s quite dif­fi­cult to say how smooth a car is in re­al­ity, or how well the car han­dles. At this stage, users can­not steer or park the car, all they can do is fol­low along for the ride. Dur­ing the demo, a pre­re­corded au­dio of the model’s en­gines can also be heard.

The cars in the vir­tual show­room are an­i­mated. This makes the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence a lot more fa­mil­iar to a video game, than a buy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. But then again, at this stage it’d be im­pos­si­ble to feel what it’s like to sit in a car. With more de­vel­op­ment in VR, we’re guess­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence will feel a lot more real.

Vroom of­fers buy­ers a free one-week trial. They get the car de­liv­ered to your home, so you can drive around for seven days, after which you can re­turn it if you’re not happy with the model.

With the cur­rent progress in vir­tual re­al­ity tech­nol­ogy, it’s now pos­si­ble to walk around such show­room spa­ces and in­ter­act with the ob­jects ly­ing around. It may not be long be­fore peo­ple can sim­ply strap a VR head­set and shop for their dream home, or fur­ni­ture, or a yacht with­out hav­ing to leave their homes. The car sales startup Vroom, is try­ing to cap­i­tal­ize on the VR boom. It’s go­ing to let peo­ple browse for used cars by let­ting them visit show­rooms, in VR. It plans to open VR show­rooms at its Texas of­fices in Grand Paririe and Hous­ton. If the idea get enough trac­tion, Vroom will open more VR show­rooms across the nation.

The mar­ket­ing firm, 900lbs of Cre­ative, built the soft­ware and graph­i­cal in­ter­face that pow­ers the VR show­room. In the demo, to be able to move around the car, buy­ers must stare at bright cir­cles on the ground for a few sec­onds so they travel fur­ther down the aisle next to the cir­cle. To get in­for­ma­tion about the ve­hi­cle, in­clud­ing the num­ber in stock and the price, users must stare at it for a few sec­onds. To get a closer look at the in­te­ri­ors, users can also open the car doors and peek in­side. With the help of the Dal­las-based mar­ket­ing firm, Vroom has been able to stitch to­gether two-di­men­sional pho­to­graphs to recre­ate a 3D rep­re­sen­ta­tion of each of the car model’s in­te­rior. The stitch­ing ef­fect cre­ates a sense of scale in­side the car that makes things seem big­ger than they would in real life.

The fu­ture ver­sions of Vroom vir­tual re­al­ity car show­rooms will gather much more im­pres­sive fea­tures. The present ver­sion is just a start­ing point that Vroom is hop­ing to use as a nav­i­ga­tion point to get to the fu­ture, where the show­room tech­nol­ogy is much more ad­vanced.

To help guide cus­tomers through vir­tual re­al­ity, Vrooms em­ploy­ees are there in­side its show­rooms. Of course, with­out Vroom em­ploy­ees, it would be im­pos­si­ble to know how to move around in­side the vir­tual re­al­ity car show­room or sit in­side a car model.

Vroom’s vir­tual re­al­ity projects ac­count for a sin­gle digit per­cent­age of the com­pany’s over­all spend­ing. Vroom doesn’t want to over­es­ti­mate the VR mar­ket and end up wast­ing all of its money on failed ini­tia­tive. It will soon re­lease a home-ver­sion of its VR show­room by the end of the year, so users can ac­cess us­ing their VR head­set (Sam­sung Gear VR de­vice or Google Card­board) sit­ting in their home. The home-ver­sion’s fea­tures will be toned down, so they can ac­com­mo­date the cheaper head­set dis­plays.

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