BMW i pilots augmented reality product visualiser powered by Tango, Google’s smartphone AR technology

BMW i is the first automotive brand in the world to offer customers an interactive, 3-D augmented reality experience of their products in a pilot programme which is being rolled-out from today. Using Tango, Google’s smartphone augmented reality technology, customers can explore their ideal BMW i3 or i8, as a real-size, interactive visualization.

“Our vehicles are emotional products and to get that emotional feeling, you really need to experience them,” commented Andrea Castronovo, BMW Group Vice President, Sales Strategy and Future Retail. “In situations where the desired product isn’t available on the spot, this visualization is the next best thing,” he continued.

Piloting initially in a double-digit number of sales outlets, selected Product Geniuses will be provided with a consumer mobile device which is Tango-enabled. Using this, they can then support customers to visualize and experience the BMW i products, using augmented reality to create a 3-D image which can be explored interactively: the customer can open the boot or the doors, even getting “inside” the car to take a closer look at the interior. Eric Johnsen, Head of Business Development for Augmented Reality at Google, said: “The thing that sets Tango apart is the fact that it understands the context of the space that it’s in. So the wheels are really on the floor, for example, giving the whole experience a much more realistic feel.”

The quality of the images created is certainly extremely realistic. “In our initial tests, we saw people ducking down when they were getting into the car, as if there really were a roof there for them to bang their heads on,” Andrea Castronovo recalled. “It’s that level of detail which means this technology offers the customers real added value,” he commented.

BMW i is the first automotive brand to use Tango to provide customers with this interactive experience. “BMW i is the spearhead of innovation at the BMW Group, so it’s clearly a good fit for the pilot of this new customer and retail tool,” explained Stefan Biermann, BMW Group Head of Innovations Sales, BMW i. The BMW i Visualiser App is the latest innovation in the BMW Group’s Future Retail program, which began rolling out around three years ago and which has transformed the customers’ experience of buying a car. Many significant elements of Future Retail, such as the Product Genius or the Virtual Product Presenter, have set new benchmarks for the industry.

The BMW i Visualiser was designed and developed by Accenture, integrating BMW i picture data of the vehicles into an app which uses Tango technology. It offers customers a new and interactive way to experience the car, with functions that enable customers to open the door or switch on the lights. In order to keep the user-experience as intuitive and simple as possible, the app is a visualiser instead of a full configurator, where features such as interior and exterior colors or wheel rims can be altered at a touch of the screen. Once the visualization is complete, the customer can save the data and share it with others, including BMW i sales outlets, via social media, email or QR code.

Once the pilot is successfully completed, it is planned to offer the app on Google Play so that customers with Tango-enabled devices can download it for use any time, any place. “We believe that over the next couple of years, the majority of premium Android devices will be Tango-enabled,” said Eric Johnsen. “Augmented reality has such huge potential for retail, we’re just getting started,” he continued.

“Our research shows that consumers are seeking improved use of technologies like augmented reality during the car-buying process to make the online-offline experience more compelling,” said Christina Raab, managing director in Accenture’s Automotive practice. “BMW i’s use of Tango technology and its integration with sales outlets and existing configuration tools is helping create the seamless multichannel experience customers are seeking.”

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