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How Companies Use Extended Reality in the Workplace

How Companies Use Extended Reality in the Workplace

April 29, 2021

Extended reality can help move businesses future forward, drive the employee experience and simplify the hiring process, too. As extended reality becomes mainstream, companies of all sizes may be incorporating augmented and/or virtual technology into their processes. Individual sectors may have different uses for these tech platforms, but businesses across different sectors might have discovered that extended reality can transform business for the better. How companies use extended reality in the workplace may depend on many factors, including their unique needs and maybe even their budgets, too. Businesses that have pivoted to work from home also may rely on virtual or augmented reality to create a sense of community and help employees stay connected and breach the geographic distance. Let’s look at some of the ways that extended reality is being used internally. WHAT IS EXTENDED REALITY? Extended reality isn’t a unique or separate type of technology. Instead, extended reality (or XR for short) is a bit of an umbrella term that encapsulates augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality. All three of these platforms make up the larger ‘extended reality.’ Companies may use one or more of these platforms. Extended Reality in the Workplace [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Augmented-Reality-in-Training.jpg] AUGMENTED REALITY IN TRAINING Employee training in the past meant different things in each industry. For restaurants, for example, maybe employees were given a handbook that highlighted all the safety protocols, dress codes, meal prep guidelines and other information related to an employee’s particular role. After being trained in all these areas, maybe the employee then had to take a test to ensure that they learned all the information. Training in other industries might have looked similar, with employees receiving a handbook and going through one-on-one training sessions detailing their new job. The training processes could have taken days and might have required multiple employees to acclimate the new hire to the company. Most companies understand that training a new employee is costly. However, the numbers and the price for this training can vary wildly by industry. According to an article on Chron, hiring or replacing a new nurse might cost about $40,000, the cost associated with hiring a new employee in the tech sector can soar to the six figures. While replacing a seasoned employee might always be costly, training doesn’t have to be so time-consuming. So how can companies simplify the hiring process? Augmented reality could help streamline training processes. PTC highlighted several ways that augmented reality is helping to propel employee training to another level.  The site explained that since some companies need to train employees off site, this can be expensive and remove the employee from the work environment. However, augmented reality can often be used anywhere, providing flexibility to new employees and maybe serving as a more cost-effective training tool. Augmented reality also is able to provide more immersive training experiences, without having a co-worker sitting nearby. Some factories or manufacturing plants may use augmented reality to aid new technicians in their jobs. Perhaps augmented reality glasses show graphics on top of the machine or other work component that relays visual instruction to the tech. Augmented reality training also could include access to reference books and other critical documents. GE Healthcare uses an Xbox and a Kinect to create their augmented reality training experiences. The employee doesn’t need to wear glasses; instead, a projector displays the data onto the work environment. If the employee makes a mistake, the technology also alerts them so it could be fixed. Extended Reality in the Workplace [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Virtual-Reality-In-Training.jpg] VIRTUAL REALITY IN TRAINING Augmented reality can be used as a way to display data on top of real environments, but virtual reality allows for employee training to take place in another realm. Virtual reality can be used to prepare employees for potentially dangerous situations (like a robbery), and it also can help employees better understand how to handle specific interactions with customers. Other industries use virtual reality to simulate physical experiences—like flying an aircraft or even navigating space missions. Last summer (June 2020) Boeing and Varjo partnered to create a virtual reality experience to enable astronauts to train on launching the Starliner space taxi. With the aid of virtual reality, astronauts enter a simulation where they can navigate the space taxi in preparation for their mission. Supply Chain Dive reported that FedEx turned to virtual reality for its employee training to better prepare new hires. The site reported that the company had issues with employees quitting soon after starting their job, as they weren’t prepared for the physical demands. FedEx’s virtual reality experience was powered by Striver, which also created virtual reality training for Fidelity and Verizon. PwC reported that businesses also are using virtual reality for training employees on ‘soft skills’ and conducted a study that compared the effectiveness of three different types of training for these skills; participants (new managers) used either e-learning, classroom or v-learning. Those who used v-learn modes were “275 percent more confident to apply skills learned after training.” They were also much more focused (four-times!) than those using e-learning and were much faster to train (again, four times more!) than those who used classroom instruction. Virtual learning also was “more emotionally connected to content than classroom learners.” Extended Reality in the Workplace [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Extended-Reality-for-Collaboration.jpg] EXTENDED REALITY FOR COLLABORATION Augmented and virtual reality also help keep employees connected and collaborating, especially when Covid pushed many to work from home. Employees likely engaged in virtual meetings via platforms like Zoom. Some businesses even integrated virtual environments, as executives donned headsets to see each other even when they were miles apart…or perhaps even separated by oceans. Augmented reality appeared in the virtual environments that employees (and students!) used to connect, learn and work together. What is augmented about Zoom and other conference platforms? Many employees used unique backgrounds that appeared behind them during conferences. These augmented backgrounds were, in fact, a form of augmented reality. Some might have used filters to create a new (and funny) identity. Sometimes, however, these virtual experiences didn’t go quite as planned. During Covid, courts went virtual, too. And one a lawyer hilariously went viral for not knowing how to take off his cat filter. The video showing the attorney as a cat was highlighted across the internet, and, of course, made it to late-night television, too. For schools, virtual experiences were part of keeping classes open…without having students in-person and at desks. The business of education used virtual platforms for distance learning plans. Some districts are even planning to offer virtual learning after Covid, because some students might have learned better in such an environment. The automotive industry used virtual reality to continue car design during the pandemic. GM and Ford both used virtual reality for car design during Covid. GM’s Hummer EV was designed much faster because of virtual reality’s remotely collaborative options. As CNBC reported, GM’s team could work from home and still collaborate via the virtual. VIRTUAL REALITY FOR HIRING, TOO! GMetri reports that extended reality can be integrated into the hiring process, and, with virtual reality, potential candidates enter into virtual tests to assess their suitability for the position. However, virtual interviews also can be part of the process. GMetri explains that a virtual interview could make the process more equitable. As an avatar, the employee is masked in a way. This could possibly eliminate the potential for any type of bias. The possibilities for using virtual reality for the interview process could be groundbreaking as it relates to eliminating these potential biases. For example, the ‘pretty privilege’ has shown to give an edge to more attractive individuals. CNBC cited a survey from Fairygodboss given to 500 individuals in charge of hiring that noted that the weight of a potential job candidate was an issue.  More than one out of five of those surveyed described a picture of an overweight woman as “lazy.” The survey had asked them to answer questions related to the individuals pictured. An avatar-based virtual reality hiring platform could ensure that weight or other factors weren’t contributing to a candidate being filtered out for the position. VIRTUAL AND AUGMENTED REALITY TO ENHANCE USER EXPERIENCE Separate from the employee experience, businesses also use extended reality to help market their products and enhance the user experience. Virtual try-on experiences and virtual and augmented reality showrooms help provide the consumer with a way to visualize and engage with the products before actually purchasing them. With virtual car showrooms, users can visualize the car and even check out the different features. Augmented reality showrooms bring the car into the user’s environment. If the virtual reality experience is accessed via a headset, the user also can interact with the vehicle in some ways and/or switch out paint colors to find their perfect car shade. Try-on experiences via virtual or augmented reality may help to minimize returns as well as provide a unique user experience. The customer can preview shades of paint on their walls, makeup products on their face or maybe even try on a new hairstyle. And if the customer doesn’t like the look, they can opt for something else. Businesses are embracing extended reality for training, collaborating and marketing, too. Augmented and virtual reality may become an integral part of how we interview, train and even shop in the future.

What You Need to Know About the Oculus Quest 2

What You Need to Know About the Oculus Quest 2

February 26, 2021

Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 is the one of the latest offerings in the world of virtual reality. Barron’s reports that this hidden gem might just beat out the latest and greatest releases from gaming competitors; per Barron’s, this headset doesn’t require sensors around the room and it isn’t tethered to a PC. Flexibility for gamers is a good thing! What else do consumers need to know about this headset and its place in virtual reality? Let’s peek into this headset. AFFORDABILITY The Oculus Quest 2 is one of the more affordable headsets on the market. Buying for a preteen who wants to try out the virtual reality experience? This might be a good option. Teens saving up their hard-earned cash might snag this headset, too. So how much is the Quest 2? There are actually two versions of the headset, based on storage capacity—a 64 gigabyte and a 256 gigabyte. The 64 gigabyte storage option costs less than $300, while the additional storage bumps the price to almost $400. These prices are fairly low-budget for a virtual reality headset. In fact, other headset systems can soar beyond $1,000. PRICE & COMMITMENT Virtual reality doesn’t necessarily require a subscription, although businesses may need a subscription; we’ll address that further down. For some users, a lower-budget headset also may be preferable because of commitment issues. Technology always changes. Once something new is introduced, something sleeker and more amazing is sure to follow. Virtual reality might not be so different. However, the need for newness or tech sleekness isn’t necessarily what may drive some consumers when they go on the hunt for a headset. Virtual reality, while it’s incredibly immersive and, let’s be real, extremely cool, also has a few drawbacks. And one of the major issues with virtual reality might not be discovered until someone uses it for the first time. Not everyone loves virtual reality technology. For some individuals, the immersive experience might make them feel sick. There can be sensitivity to this technology. This sensitivity may include reactions to all virtual reality, and not Oculus in particular. People who are sensitive to virtual reality also may have had negative experiences with 3D movies. They may feel nauseous, disoriented or have a headache. Consumers who are unsure about this technology or how they will physically react to it might not wish to invest a serious amount of money in a headset. GAME OPTIONS While Oculus Quest 2 isn’t tied to a console brand, it still offers an array of game options. The Oculus Quest Store offers the full list of options including popular games like Dance Central, The Climb, and Walkabout Mini Golf. It’s important to note that some games might be offered for one VR headset but not others. Game options depend on the company and also may be affected by any licensing agreements. This has been true for the gaming world for decades, though. Some consoles offer games that others don’t. For example, Nintendo always had brand-specific games. OCULUS AND BUSINESSES Oculus headsets—because of their affordability—might be a good option for businesses, too. Oculus headsets can be used in employee training, product development or virtual collaboration. However, the business option from Oculus includes “…the cost of the device, a commercial use license for Oculus software, and a one-year subscription to Oculus for Business enterprise-grade software and support that will end 12 months after activation.” PLAYING WITH OCULUS Gamers who have an Oculus Quest 2 aren’t tethered to their PC or a console. Instead, gamers need to download the app and create a Facebook account. Yes, users need a Facebook account. There is no going around this. Those gamers who don’t like Facebook or don’t wish to have a Facebook account might have purchased the wrong product! As Tom’s Guide points out: “If you’ve managed to get this far without selling out your data, kudos to you. Unfortunately, if you want to use your Oculus device you’ll need to make an account with Facebook.” Tom’s Guide is a great resource for discovering more about this headset; anyone who is researching the Quest 2 as an option might want to read his rundown. The guide takes users through the entire setup step-by-step. One thing to note is to choose a space that provides enough room for good movement. Virtual reality is meant to be an experience. And, while the setup lets users set play parameters including boundaries of obstacles (you don’t want to run into a chair), a room with a lot of open space might still be the best option. What You Need to Know About the Oculus Quest 2 [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/image-7.jpeg] TO BUY…OR NOT For most consumers, virtual reality headsets will be used for gaming. For businesses, their use may be a bit broader. So buying or not buying a headset is really a personal choice. Gamers who are on top of new technology and new trends might not be able to resist the allure of virtual reality. Others may be fine with traditional games via the screen. The immersive element of virtual reality makes this technology incredibly enticing in the gaming world. Playing a game by using a controller to maneuver the action on the screen is a one-dimensional experience, but virtual reality allows the play to be part of the action and to have a role in the game. You are a character involved in the action. Instead of watching someone climb a mountain, the player feels as though they are physically climbing. WHAT’S THE FUTURE OF VIRTUAL REALITY GAMING? The potential for virtual reality could be far-reaching, especially in the gaming world. While virtual reality is used by businesses for immersive experiences related to collaborations and even product development, the future of this technology for gamers—and maybe for businesses too—might be even more realistic. There are limitations for virtual reality technology with current offerings. There may be limited tactile experience. Some virtual reality experiences do incorporate smell, though. For example, spas use virtual reality to immerse clients into relaxation experiences that can be elevated with scents specific to the virtual location. Perhaps the future of virtual reality includes a full sensory experience—with touch and smell. Could virtual reality advance to actually feeling the coolness of a mountain while climbing? Or the graininess of a sandy beach? Racing games could incorporate the smell of the racetrack—burned rubber! Even adventure games could get in on this sensory experience. Imagine playing a historical adventure game and smelling chicken roasting above a fire? Or feel the heat from a dragon’s breath. Some virtual reality experiences do include sensory outputs like wind, for example. Virtual reality experiences at home, though, might one day incorporate all these immersive features, too. What You Need to Know About the Oculus Quest 2 [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/image-8.jpeg] WHAT ABOUT AUGMENTED REALITY? While the Oculus Quest 2 might be one of the more affordable virtual reality headsets, it still may be out of the budget for many consumers. For those who don’t have the budget for virtual reality, augmented reality experiences may be a more affordable option. Augmented reality includes graphic overlays atop of a real-world environment. Games that offer virtual experiences included Pokemon GO, Jurassic World Alive and Zombie, Run! These games may be available for both Android and Apple devices. And the cost of augmented reality games is nominal when compared to the price of virtual reality headsets. Augmented reality can be found in smart glasses, too. However, the affordability of smart glasses depends on the brand.   Epson Moverio glasses range in price from a few hundred dollars to almost $700. Garmin Varia Vision clocks in under $400. Some augmented reality experiences are so commonplace we enjoy them every day. Vehicles that offer backup cameras or front cameras might utilize augmented reality. The grid lines that show the turning radius of the car when these cameras are engaged are a daily example of augmented reality. Many businesses also use augmented reality to elevate the user experience. Sephora, Ulta and some major cosmetic brands offer experiences that utilize augmented reality to allow customers to try on shades of makeup. This helps the customer better understand if a product works for their complexion and style and, hopefully, may lower the need for returns. So are virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 a must-buy? Whether or not consumers decide to upgrade their gaming experience to virtual reality may depend on their budget and their preferences. The Quest 2 is an affordable option, but it still might be out of the budget for some consumers. However, those who are interested in dipping a foot into the virtual realm may find that the Quest 2 is a great option. Others may invest in more expensive headsets. For gamers who don’t want to invest in virtual reality or simply can’t afford to invest in this technology, augmented reality games offer a semi immersive experience by merging the real world with a virtual element. These games can be downloaded to many devices and are quite affordable. However, augmented reality glasses also can be an option for those who want a more tech savvy way to experience augmented reality; these devices vary in price.

How the Automotive Sector is Linked to Video Games

How the Automotive Sector is Linked to Video Games

February 15, 2021

Need for Speed, Gran Turismo and Forza are all popular video games that pit players against each other in virtual races. Their commonality, however, drives their influence. These games are beyond just fun race competition. All three include branded vehicles from the major automotive manufacturers, making the games important marketing vehicles for the brands…while also keeping players captivated. The automotive sector is linked to video games, and both sectors might seem to share characteristics and technology with the other. Video games may drive interest in certain cars because of the user experience on the screen. And the automotive sector might use certain shared technology from video games to elevate the driving experience in vehicles, too. Although, this shared technology might be more coincidental…and a sign of the changing technological times. Not all racing games or video games influenced by the world of auto feature big names like Alfa Romeo, Ford, Acura, Aston Martin, Audi , BMW, Chevrolet, and Ferrari (and many more). And those that don’t have the rights to recreate these cars and their iconic emblems have to get a little creative in building their virtual vehicles. While seeing and racing iconic car models may drive interest in those brands, there are a few modern vehicles that seem almost like something out of a video game. And many new vehicles use technology that is often found in video games. Automotive manufacturers use virtual reality for car design and augmented reality to aid technicians in making repairs. How else do games and real life mirror automotive? Here are features, designs and implementations found in both the automotive sector and video games. VIRTUAL REALITY Gran Turismo Sport can use virtual reality in game play via “Arcade mode.”  This takes the race to an immersive experience. Players can pick their cars and choose from nearly 30 different tracks. While donning a headset to enter the virtual realm is linked to game play, this technology also has become integral in automotive design. Ford used virtual reality during Covid lockdowns to keep the design and development rolling even while execs were working from home. Virtual reality technology allowed them to review the car’s design as a team. Using laser pointers, team members could highlight features of the car during meetings. Industry Week reported in 2017 that General Motors, like Ford, also used virtual reality for design purposes. The technology “…played a key role in redesigning the Chevy Traverse, one of GM’s most popular and profitable family-haulers….” Virtual reality also was used—often without headsets—as a way to help consumers shop for new cars in the digital space. When dealerships might have been forced to close their doors during the pandemic, virtual showrooms displayed the available inventory. Dealerships that didn’t launch their own virtual showrooms could direct shoppers to RelayCars, which offered virtual experiences for numerous makes/models. Those on the hunt for a new car could see inside the vehicles and even change paint hues and other features. The automotive industry also channeled the video game world when BMW launched its virtual test drive on Mars back in 2017. The BMW X3 could take on the terrain of the Red Planet, and consumers could step into the driver’s seat to control the navigation of the virtual trip to Mars. Only in the virtual space could humans explore Mars without a supply of oxygen from behind the seat of a new BMW! VIRTUAL REALITY AND AVATAR PASSENGERS! Nissan, on the other hand, is developing virtual reality with virtual companionship. With its Invisible-to-Visible technology, Nissan would allow for avatars of virtual passengers to enter the car. This would require the use of special goggles, however. These companions could be family members or friends and could help drivers feel less lonely during long car trips. I2V also could allow for driving professionals to virtually take a passenger seat and provide instruction. The I2V is still in the works, but the possibilities could be amazing, and this technology also has many other components…but it’s still in development. VIRTUAL REALITY FOR REPAIRS In September, Autoweek reported that Mercedes-Benz planned to use virtual reality to aid technicians in making repairs. While wearing special virtual reality goggles, the technician could show repair specialists in another location the mechanics (and the issues) for the vehicle. The article shows a screen of the remote specialist appearing before the technician. This new technology is called Virtual Remote Support and is in partnership with Microsoft, per Autoweek. VIRTUAL REALITY IN SAFETY Gaming and automotive collided for Volvo, as the company is using augmented reality to test cars via a simulator.  The driving experience would be used to test out vehicles in real life driving situations. However, the simulation involves a real car, a real road but simply imagined scenarios. Automotive World explained that “Testers can be exposed to imagined active safety and driver assistance features, upcoming autonomous drive user interfaces, future car models and many other scenarios. It can be used on real test track roads or in the test lab, and every scenario is fully customizable.” AUGMENTED REALITY Augmented reality video games include Pokemon GO, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Jurassic World Alive and many more. These games use the real world environment and overlay graphics to transform players into a new augmented world. The automotive industry uses augmented reality technology to improve the driving experience, market new products and help consumers shop, too! AUGMENTED REALITY AND THE DRIVING EXPERIENCE How does this technology improve the driving experience? Augmented reality is actually wired into many parts of new cars, and augmented reality is often a standard feature, too! Drivers who use backup cameras might be using augmented reality. Many backup cameras include overlay grid lines that show the turning radius of the vehicle. These lines can show drivers a more precise view and may help them avoid backing into an obstacle. Front cameras may offer similar features, showing the proximity of the front end to other vehicles. GPS features also may use augmented reality. These convenient navigational devices and apps may show the real world with overlays for directions or other instructions. Many GPS devices and programs also include voice command, and, while voice prompts aren’t true augmented reality, they are a type of artificial intelligence. How the Automotive Sector is Linked to Video Games [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Augmented-Reality-for-Repair.jpg] AUGMENTED REALITY FOR REPAIR Automobile manufacturers also use augmented reality for aiding technicians during repair. The company Re’Flekt created a solution for Jaguar Land Rover to use augmented reality to provide instructions digitally over parts of the cars’ mechanics.   For car mechanics anywhere, the WorxAR app allows augmented reality assistance to aid in making repairs. The app was developed by Tradiebot (in Australia). AR Post reported that “…enthusiast DIYers will be able to perform simple troubleshooting work with ease. For example, they can access the digital service manual of the car while working on their car. Instead of stopping at every step to check the instructions, they see the information overlaid onto the car itself.” WorxAR also announced its partnership with General Motors in November “to address a nagging issue.” The issue was related to the Silverado (those prior to 2018). Tradiebot’s blog on its website explained more about the project: “General Motors’ commitment to the safety of their customers was critical in driving the project so when traditional methods of information dissemination were still ineffective, Tradiebot’s groundbreaking work in Virtual and Augmented Realities was critical and Collision Hub’s social media presence and a stellar reputation for promoting proper and safe repairs was essential in getting the message out to repairers.” AUGMENTED REALITY IN MARKETING Augmented reality has been used during Covid in marketing new vehicles. The immersive experience of augmented reality was integral in the launch of Lamborghini’s Huracán RVO AWD Spyder. With an Apple device, consumers could access an augmented reality experience that allowed them to drop the new vehicle in any environment. Even on a bed! Users could walk around the car and explore the vehicle. How the Automotive Sector is Linked to Video Games [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Augmented-Reality-Buying.jpg] AUGMENTED REALITY & BUYING Buying a car used to be an in-person process. Typically, new car shoppers would visit a few dealerships to find their ideal car. They might sit inside different models and take a test drive of their favorite choices. Negotiations would lead to financing discussions and possibly securing a loan through the dealership. With Covid, however, car dealerships might have been forced to close to shoppers. Car buying went virtual, and the process that was once in person became a digital experience. While virtual reality allowed for buyers to preview cars in simulated dealerships, augmented reality might have aided buyers, too. Back in 2017, BMW was the first company to use Snapchat’s Try-Before-You-Buy lens. This allowed users to preview the X2 from the comfort of home. But virtual and augmented reality showrooms aided buyers who were on the hunt for a new vehicle during the pandemic. Even those who could visit a dealership in person (and not online) might have benefited from augmented reality during their shopping experience. The Ferrari AR app lets potential buyers visit a showroom and then use the app via a tablet to augment aspects of the actual cars. They can switch the paint color and get an xray look at the vehicle. While racing games feature models of actual vehicles, heightening the awareness of these brands, the games also share the same technology that is being used in the industry. Or vice versa. Augmented reality and virtual reality allow for immersive experiences during game play, but in the automotive industry they can enhance safety features, create interactive marketing experiences and aid buyers on their hunt for a new car. In many ways, the gaming world and the automotive world overlap, and, who knows, in the future, a self-driving car could allow for the gaming experience to hit the road as drivers take the passenger seat!

Virtual, Augmented Reality is the Future for Many Industries

Virtual, Augmented Reality is the Future for Many Industries

February 10, 2021

Sports Video Group reported back in November that augmented and virtual reality is where many companies are investing; SVG cited a report that stated that these tech platforms “…recorded more than $2 billion in total investment so far in 2020.” Augmented and virtual reality is the future for many industries. While the use of augmented and virtual reality has grown in recent years, the sudden shutdown of many businesses because of Covid might have fueled interest in this type of technology. Customers might not have been able to visit stores or even tour museums. However, virtual and augmented reality served to enhance a seemingly one-dimensional online visit and helped recreate the in-person experience that was lacking during the pandemic. The rise of virtual and augmented reality points to an ever-changing dynamic in the realm of user experience. This technology extends beyond bulky headsets used to play video games or even augmented reality online features that allow shoppers to virtually try on shades of lipstick or maybe even clothes. AR and VR is used across numerous industries, including healthcare and automotive. Smart glasses give technicians insight to a car’s mechanics and they also may provide assistance to surgeons and medical professionals. For example, some platforms act as simulations for surgeons. Yet, the use of this technology is being eyed by other industries that may have more interest in dipping a foot into the deeper end of the virtual pool. So who’s looking at expanding or even introducing virtual and augmented reality offerings? Here’s some predictions and insight about the future role of AR and VR in fashion, the beauty industry, and mental health. Virtual, Augmented Reality is the Future for Many Industries [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Future-for-Many-Industries2.jpg] FASHION In October, Vogue Business asked the question: “Smart Glasses: Should Fashion Buy In?” The article was accompanied by a sketch of a mannequin standing on a platform with smart glasses highlighting different aspects of the outfit, including the price and stock quantities. The article (which is behind a paywall) delved into “…the risks and rewards of wearable AR.” The question of fashion’s involvement in augmented reality or virtual reality experiences is extremely relevant, especially as the industry grapples with the limitations of the ongoing pandemic. While the use of smart glasses could provide instant feedback about the availability of a shirt or provide data on the price, the use of the technology could be more immersive. Before Covid, fashion editors and perhaps other industry insiders, too, (and celebrities) took their seats at Fashion Week events, as they watched show after show of new collections from designers. These events were hosted in New York, Milan, Paris and other major cities. During 2020, though, these shows went virtual…and online. While the pandemic might not have changed Fashion Week for good, what if it ushered in the potential for virtual experiences? What if editors used virtual reality goggles or smart glasses to watch fashion shows from their offices? Attendance could be a virtual experience, with every editor now securing a front row seat at exclusive events. Sound futuristic? According to FashionWeekOnline, it’s already in the works. Apps from fashion publications also could be a future hub for virtual or augmented reality experiences. Vogue offers its Runway app, which allows users to peruse items from every major designer’s collection. Users also can view videos of runway shows, and, for each collection, they also can view reviews. While the app is interactive, it doesn’t provide augmented or virtual experiences. However, Vogue dipped into augmented reality experience back in 2018; partnering with Apple, Vogue offered an experience that elevated iMessage with Vogue Effect. With this experience, per Vogue, “…your ho-hum reality will instantly morph into a fully functional world of glinting lights and thumping music.” Vogue Singapore also recently let readers experience an augmented reality element of a fashion show. Model Fiona Xie could be placed anywhere to have her showcase Valentino right in the user’s own surroundings. The experience was the work of HoloMe. Virtual, Augmented Reality is the Future for Many Industries [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Future-for-Many-Industries3.jpg] THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY Going to the spa or the salon is a relaxing experience, but with augmented reality and virtual reality the decadence of that relaxation is now elevated. In 2019, Professional Beauty reported that Bellacures has introduced virtual reality experiences for patrons. During manicures and pedicures, guests can be transported to beautiful spaces in Hawaii, New York or Iceland. To enhance the virtual experience, scents, sounds and even the treatments complement the chosen location. However, remote beauty appointments also have become a reality. The company 10to8 wrote about how professionals can provide virtual experiences to guests. But these experiences didn’t require goggles or a headset, although maybe in the future they will. Instead, 10to8 focused on webinars or other types of services to help clients. Then there are virtual ‘try-on’ experiences. Ulta and Sephora both offer these features to users via their apps. Many cosmetic companies also offer their own ‘try-on’ experiences, too. But what might the future look like for the beauty industry, especially post-Covid? The use of augmented and virtual reality might become extremely user immersive. Depending on the gadgets that individuals own at home—VR headsets, smart glasses, etc.—the user experience might become part of the action. That is, what if the future allows for a stylist to enter the home as an avatar, giving makeup tutorials or other guidance one-on-one. Maybe the user has products at home and takes lessons on styling their hair or trying out new makeup looks. What about try-on experiences related to actual clothing? Could the future include avatars that are displayed before us and virtually model new dresses, shirts, shoes or other wardrobe essentials? This could include a perfect representation of the individual, right down to the exact measurements. Then choosing the right size or fit wouldn’t even be a problem! Of course, these hypothetical situations are simply…hypothetical. We don’t know where augmented and virtual reality will take the beauty industry. But, as technology is changing every year, maybe the industry moves towards these virtual or augmented experiences. Virtual, Augmented Reality is the Future for Many Industries [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Future-for-Many-Industries.jpg] HEALTHCARE: VIRTUAL MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES       Scientific American wrote about virtual reality being used to aid services for mental health. The publication explained that virtual reality is used as a safe means of “exposure therapy” for some patients. This means that those struggling with anxiety or specific phobias can enter a virtual realm to help treat these fears and, hopefully, overcome them. Scientific American cited the fear of heights as an example and how virtual reality may be used to expose someone who is afraid of heights to buildings of increasing height. The patient wouldn’t actually be standing on top of a real building. Instead, they will be safely exposed to the idea of these heights in a virtual realm. Their therapist would be right next to them to help as needed. Scientific American also noted that virtual reality can help with diagnoses, too. In fact, virtual reality experiences may help clinicians in diagnosing autism and Alzheimer’s Disease. Virtual reality can help with assessing a patient for certain conditions because it mimics actual real life circumstances; per the publication, “…because VR imitates the patient’s everyday environment, it also lets clinicians test symptoms that are usually out of reach.” Scientific American talked to a researcher who noted that virtual reality might not be in every neurologist’s office, but that the technology would be most useful for clinical drug trials (for Alzheimer’s). The article also talked about one of the more obvious ways that virtual reality could affect mental health treatments: AI and virtual sessions. While the idea behind virtual sessions might sound appealing, especially for those who might not have the financial means to pay for weekly sessions, one expert cited in the article pointed out a potential concern for allowing patients to seek virtual help…especially if that help was sought after a self-diagnosis: “When people start to self-diagnose and self-treat, buying software off the web, you’re opening the door to a slippery slope of mistreatment,” Albert “Skip” Rizzo, director for medical virtual reality at University of Southern California’s (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies, said in an interview with Scientific American. “The next biggest controversy [in] psychology is going to be: How far can we go with AI and virtual therapists?” Maybe that is the big question at hand for all industries in general. How far can we go with virtual reality? And AI? More importantly, how far should we go with this technology? The door is wide open for engineers and scientists to explore new ways to use virtual reality and augmented reality. Virtual and/or augmented reality experiences already assist doctors, and they also help consumers, too. Major technology companies are exploring new ways to integrate this technology into everyday gadgets like glasses, and our phones already include artificial intelligence in the form of virtual assistants. Technology could advance to the point of machines or AI taking over; in the automotive industry, the self-driving car is in the future. Maybe retail stores will use virtual reality to allow for customers to try on clothes virtually using a personal avatar. And, in the world of healthcare and especially mental health, virtual visits may be the norm during Covid. But there are potential downsides to using this technology, too. So how far is too far? Perhaps this is the question many experts may need to answer in the future.

Technologies That Are Transforming the Automotive Industry

Technologies That Are Transforming the Automotive Industry

January 28, 2021

Nearly every industry has evolved to some degree as a result of technological developments, but some have changed far more than others. In fact, technology has completely transformed certain industries. For example, the rise in e-commerce led to the decline of countless brick-and-mortar retailers and drastically changed the retail industry. Technology also changed the hospitality industry by eliminating the need for the middleman—the travel agent—in making travel arrangements.  Now, technology is in the process of completely transforming the automotive industry. Here’s an overview of the technologies that are making the biggest impact on automotive companies: FORWARD COLLISION WARNING The introduction of forward collision warning technology had a significant impact on the automotive industry. This technology, which is now built into many different vehicles, alerts drivers when they are in danger of colliding with another vehicle or object in front of them. Some forward collision warning systems are designed to provide visual alerts to drivers when a collision is imminent. For example, some Acura vehicles will display a red “BRAKE” light when the forward collision warning system detects an object in the vehicle’s front path. Other systems, such as those found in certain Honda models, will alert drivers of danger with loud beeping sounds. Some automotive manufacturers, including Ford, GMC, and Jeep, produce vehicles with both forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. These systems won’t just alert drivers of the threat of a forward collision—they will also help drivers avoid the collision by automatically applying the brakes. Even if the driver does not take action to avoid the collision, the vehicle will automatically slow down in order to avoid colliding with the object detected in its front path. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), forward collision warning technology has reduced rear-end accidents by 27%. Based on this data, it’s clear that this technology has made the roads safer for all drivers. VIRTUAL REALITY Virtual reality is not limited solely to the gaming industry—it’s been widely used throughout the automotive industry as well.  Automotive manufacturers have used virtual reality technology in a number of ways. Some automotive manufacturers, including Ford and Volvo, utilize virtual reality technology to offer virtual test drives to consumers. This allows consumers to experience what it’s like to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle without seeing the car in person. This is beneficial to consumers who are interested in purchasing a vehicle online without ever stepping foot in a dealership. Some automotive manufacturers, including Hyundai, use virtual reality technology during the safety testing process. Hyundai engineers perform countless safety tests on vehicles in a simulated environment created by virtual reality technology.  Since no vehicles are actually damaged during these virtual tests, this allows the engineers to perform as many demo tests as necessary without increasing overhead costs. Volkswagen uses virtual reality technology to simplify the process of designing new vehicles. Design teams at Volkswagen no longer need to build clay prototypes of new Volkswagen models. Instead, they design virtual models. All changes are made directly to the virtual model, so the team does not need to waste time or resources building a new clay prototype every time the design is modified. Using virtual reality in this manner has drastically reduced the amount of time that it takes to finalize a new design. Technologies That Are Transforming the Automotive Industry [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Transforming-the-Automotive-Industry2.jpg] AUGMENTED REALITY Another innovative technology that has had a major impact on the automotive industry is augmented reality.  Mercedes-Benz recently started using augmented reality technology to transform maintenance and repair services at dealerships. Technicians now have the opportunity to seek remote assistance on maintenance and repair issues by putting on a Microsoft HoloLens 2, which is an augmented reality headset.  The device will connect them to experts located around the world, who will be able to see exactly what the technician sees. These experts can then help the technician identify the issue and make the necessary repairs using augmented reality technology. For example, the experts may use augmented reality to display a digital arrow that points directly at the car part that is in need of repair. A number of different automotive manufacturers use augmented reality technology to create virtual showrooms for consumers. This gives consumers the opportunity to explore the interior and exterior of vehicles from the comfort of their own home. They can even walk around the vehicle and look inside just like they would if they were standing in a showroom at a dealership. VIRTUAL FINANCING The vast majority of car consumers do not purchase new vehicles in cash. According to Experian, roughly 85% of new passenger vehicles are financed with a loan or lease.  Financing has always been available to automotive consumers, but the introduction of virtual financing made it easier than ever before for consumers to finance the purchase of a new vehicle. Online lending allows consumers to shop around for the best rates with the click of a mouse. There’s no need to spend hours on the phone or visit multiple lenders in person to get information. Instead, consumers can simply fill out a few online forms to get quotes from various lenders. There are also more lenders to choose from in the online marketplace, so consumers have more options than ever before. It only takes a few minutes to get pre-qualified, so consumers can quickly determine their budget and move onto the next step in the process of buying a new vehicle. By making financing easier for consumers, virtual lending technology has removed one obstacle that often stood in the way of buying a new vehicle. Technologies That Are Transforming the Automotive Industry [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Transforming-the-Automotive-Industry3.jpg] LANE DEPARTURE WARNING AND LANE KEEPING ASSIST Lane departure warning and lane keeping assist systems are now found in various models manufactured by Acura, BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Honda, GMC, Ford, and other brands. Both systems use forward-facing cameras to monitor the vehicle’s position within the lane lines. Lane departure warning systems will alert the driver when their vehicle is starting to drift outside of the lines. These systems may alert the driver using visual cues, such as flashing lights, or audible cues, such as beeping sounds. The driver can then use the steering wheel to correct the vehicle’s positioning.  Lane keeping assist systems will do more than simply alert the driver that they are drifting outside of the lane lines. These systems are also designed to correct the vehicle’s positioning by automatically applying the brakes or adjusting the steering wheel. The driver does not need to take action in order to stay within the lines if this system has been activated. Both of these systems prevent collisions that occur when a vehicle accidentally drifts into another lane, which could be occupied by another vehicle. However, this does not mean that drivers won’t be able to change lanes in a vehicle designed with lane departure warning or lane keeping assist technology. These systems are only activated when the turning signal is off. In other words, if the driver uses their turning signal when changing lanes, neither system will turn on. BLIND SPOT WARNING Blind spot warning is another type of technology that has completely transformed the automotive industry by improving vehicle safety. Blind spot warning systems are supported by sensors, cameras, and radar technology. These technologies are used to detect vehicles, pedestrians, and objects that fall within the driver’s blind spots. These spots include the front of the vehicle, back of the vehicle, and along each side. If a vehicle, pedestrian, or object is detected in a blind spot, the system will alert the driver by flashing a light or making a beeping noise. Most systems use visual alerts in the form of blinking lights on the vehicle’s side mirrors, which is directly in the driver’s line of sight if they are attempting to change lanes or merge. Some systems are designed to always monitor these blind spots, whereas others will only activate if the driver has their turning signal on and is attempting to change lanes, merge, or turn. There are also vehicles designed with both blind spot warning and automatic emergency steering systems.  These systems will work together to detect vehicles or objects in the driver’s blind spot and automatically adjust the vehicle’s steering to prevent the driver from colliding with these vehicles or objects. Transforming the Automotive Industry [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Transforming-the-Automotive-Industry-1.jpg] REARVIEW CAMERAS Rearview cameras are common in a wide variety of vehicles today. These cameras are designed to help drivers see the area behind their vehicle, which can help prevent drivers from getting into back over accidents and collisions with children, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Most rearview cameras will automatically activate once the driver shifts into the reverse gear. As soon as the car is in reverse, a live video feed from the rear-facing camera will appear on the vehicle’s center display screen or in the vehicle’s rear view mirror. This way, the driver can make sure that there is nothing in their way before proceeding to back up. The live video feed from this camera will automatically disappear from view once the car is no longer in reverse. In other words, this system only activates when it is needed. Some rearview cameras also come with safety alert features. For example, the Toyota Rav4 rear view camera not only provides drivers with a view of the back of their vehicle, but also alerts the driver when they are about to back into another object or vehicle behind them. There are several vehicles that are designed with systems that will also automatically apply the brakes when the driver is about to back into another object or vehicle. FUEL EFFICIENCY Many of the vehicles on the market today are fuel efficient, which means they require less fuel to operate than standard vehicles. Some of these vehicles are designed with stop/start fuel efficiency technology. A vehicle that is designed with this technology will automatically turn off when the vehicle is idle and restart once the vehicle starts to move again. For example, the vehicle may turn off when the driver is stuck at a red light, but then turn back on when the driver is ready to move again. The vehicle does not use as much gas when it is turned off, so this technology leads to a significant increase in fuel efficiency. Many fuel efficient vehicles are hybrid designs, which means they are powered by both an electric motor and gas. Sometimes the vehicle is solely powered by the electric motor, whereas other times it is solely powered by gas or a combination of gas and the electric motor. Because it is not completely reliant on gas, a hybrid vehicle is far more fuel efficient than a gas-powered vehicle. These are some of the many fuel efficient technologies that are changing how vehicles are designed and operated in today’s automotive industry. INTERNET CONNECTIVITY The experience of driving or riding in a vehicle as a passenger has significantly changed due to technology that connects vehicles to the internet. Today’s vehicles are designed with “infotainment systems,” which are systems that provide information and entertainment to drivers and passengers. Through these systems, consumers can listen to the radio, connect to Bluetooth devices, look up driving directions, use various mobile apps, view traffic information, and more.  Having access to this information and entertainment at your fingertips enhances the entire experience for both drivers and passengers. It allows automotive consumers to avoid traffic, navigate to their final destination without getting lost, stay connected to friends and family on the road, and listen to their favorite music throughout the ride. Thanks to this technology, there’s never a dull moment when driving or riding as a passenger in one of today’s vehicles. PREDICTIVE TECHNOLOGY Automotive manufacturers are beginning to use predictive technology to create a more personalized driving experience for consumers.  For example, predictive technology can be used to automatically adjust the seat and mirrors whenever a certain driver is behind the wheel.  This innovative technology can also help the driver predict when the vehicle will need maintenance or repairs. For instance, the technology will analyze various factors, including the mileage and condition of the vehicle, to predict when the vehicle will need an oil change. It can even analyze the driver’s typical driving patterns, including speed and idle time, to calculate how many miles the vehicle can travel before needing more fuel. When used in this manner, predictive technology takes all of the thinking and guesswork out of owning and maintaining a vehicle.There’s no doubt that the automotive industry is changing for the better as a result of innovative technologies. These technological developments have allowed automotive brands to manufacture vehicles that offer a more enjoyable, safer, and eco-conscious driving experience.

User Experience (UX) May Drive the Future of Automotive Design

User Experience (UX) May Drive the Future of Automotive Design

January 27, 2021

User Experience (or UX for short) focuses on design implementation for products or features that are user-friendly, easy, and useful for the consumer. The term is fairly self-explanatory; that is, technology or features geared towards UX or focused on UX enhance the ‘user experience.’ These features are easy to navigate, never cumbersome. UX may drive the future of automotive design as more consumers (and drivers) look for features that enhance the driving experience and also provide on-the-road resources and solutions. These specialized features will likely offer sleek designs and easy-to-navigate functions. But the definition of UX design can vary. And this definition may include thoughts on what UX should offer the consumer…or user. The site User Testing offered up many different takes on what exactly UX means to different professionals in the industry.  For example, Jason Ogle, who hosts the User Defenders podcast, offered this take for the site: “UX Design is an empathically-driven practice crafted to solve human and business problems, and remove obstacles and friction from a user’s desired goals—hopefully delivering delight in the process.” However, Martyn Reding, Virgin Atlantic’s head of digital experience, offered a more detailed take on the meaning of UX. According to Reding, “User experience design is the culmination of content, research, design and strategy and its effect on the delivery, selling and use of a digital product or service. In many instances, a user experience happens by the incidental smashing together of code and assumptions about people, so I think the distinction is in brands that recognize the value of a carefully crafted digital experience. In many ways, it is the fulfillment of a brand’s promise and recognition that how customers feel has a huge commercial impact.” User Experience (UX) May Drive the Future of Automotive Design [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-254.jpeg] WHAT UX MEANS FOR AUTOMOTIVE No matter how an expert or industry professional defines UX, it’s meaning and place within automotive has been taking hold for years. Drivers have seen a technological evolution in their vehicles, and how they interact with their car’s features. Years ago, the speedometer and all information on the dashboard were very basic. As technology advanced, these gauges went from numbers with a physical hand to denote readings and car data (think speed or gas volume) to digital in presentation. Suddenly, all the data began to appear as computerized information. The dashboard wasn’t just limited to one set of gauges and data points. As the dashboard and information systems of cars advanced with the computer age, digitization started to drive the data center. Drivers could actually switch the information that was visible on their dashboard. Now they could review information on tire pressure, mileage, fuel efficiency, and other mechanical specs. The user experience for early models of these new driving data centers likely was not very user friendly.  Even today, some drivers might not like the navigation of the car’s information system; access to new data or a different screen on the dashboard may be accessible by turning a knob. UX AND GADGET COMPATIBILITY Heightening user experience on the road meant integrating other forms of technology within the vehicle. As smartphones became mainstream, the user’s dependency on them likely influenced UX designs for the automotive sector. Drivers were taking their phones on the road, but this need to bring the phone on a drive became entangled with devastating statistics. Distracted driving has often been a concern; any action that takes the eyes or attention from the road can be dangerous. Changing a radio station, turning to correct a child in the back seat, fiddling with temperature controls or even eating could possibly lead to driving inattentively. However, a phone on the road and its connectivity to texts and calls perhaps proved too tempting for some drivers to resist while driving. Texting and driving stories served as sobering reminders on how a gadget can prove to be a dangerous and life-altering distraction in the car. Public service announcements were launched warning of these distractions. In 2018, more than 2,800 individuals were killed because of distracted driving. Smartphones continued to follow drivers into the car, however. Many drivers rely on their phones in case of roadside emergencies. Perhaps the concern related to these gadgets and their misuse on the road prompted changes in UX designs within the vehicle. As the reliance on smartphones increased, UX within the vehicle evolved to accommodate these devices. Today’s newer vehicles allow for smartphones to connect to the car. The user experience is now hands-free, which, hopefully, reduces distraction. Phone calls can utilize the car’s speakers and music can stream, too. Need to send a message? There’s no need to even touch the phone while driving. Just give voice commands and dictate the text. Even map functions from the phone can be displayed on a screen within the car. UX BEYOND ENTERTAINMENT While smartphone compatibility simplifies and eases the driving experiences, today’s vehicles feature many more examples of UX throughout the automobile. Safety features like a backup camera are another example of UX on the road. Cameras—front and rear—aid the driver in parking and navigation. In the past, backing up meant looking over your shoulder…and hoping nothing was in the blind spots. Now cameras show the driver everything, which may reduce accidents and even little fender benders. There is no guessing about the turning radius and if the front end has safely cleared the car parked alongside. In this way, augmented reality has enhanced UX. Another safety example? Automatic braking. Many cars now stop automatically when something is detected that could cause an accident. About to back into a trash can? The car knows. This smart feature could freak out drivers when they first experience it, but the safety implications are far-reaching. UX OUTSIDE OF THE VEHICLE The automotive industry embraces UX in its sales initiatives, too. During Covid, sales for many industries—retail and even automotive—moved online. To better serve consumers, companies likely tailored their site and their sales tools by improving user experience. The automotive industry implemented virtual user experiences. These included virtual showrooms that allowed shoppers to preview vehicles, change paint hues, and also peek at the interior. Some dealerships even offered virtual test drives; potential buyers could request a vehicle that would be delivered to their home for the test drive. For extra convenience, loan approvals also may have been offered online. During Covid, manufacturers also might have used virtual or augmented reality to enhance UX, too. For example, Lamborghini previewed its new Huracan EVO RWD Spyder via a unique augmented reality experience that allowed users to drop the vehicle into any real life environment. Users could then walk around the automobile and examine its features…in the comfort of their home! User Experience (UX) May Drive the Future of Automotive Design [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-255.jpeg] UX OF THE FUTURE The ultimate user experience features in automotive are right around the bend. In the not-so-distant future, UX will go AI. Self-driving cars are on the horizon. Not only are manufacturers like Tesla moving this technology forward, but the tech giants—Google, Apple, Amazon, and even Microsoft—also may be in the driver’s seat. When UX is taken to the extreme, perhaps it becomes so autonomous and intelligent that users don’t even have to think about its significance. Self-driving vehicles will take drivers on a journey of leisure. There will be no worries about the next left turn, parking, or even navigating to a new destination. The journey will be automated. These cars—especially those whose models might be linked to a tech company—also might integrate other unique UX details. These features would go far beyond what we know now in modern vehicles. Perhaps the self-driving cars of the future feature avatars to drive us. Virtual assistants could be integrated into the vehicle, too. Many new cars feature upgraded options like television screens in the back seat. What if every seat in the vehicle had a digitized entertainment station? Perhaps these stations also include their own unique personal assistant. Could kids have a kid-friendly AI assistant? Maybe avatars/assistants are build-your-own models. Every seat includes a customized assistant for the journey! What if the phone became remotely linked to the car? Perhaps the driver could leave the phone at home, but all the data would still appear in the car’s system. Including contacts and other information. The physical phone could be a relic of the past. Self-driving cars would need to feature advanced safety systems that are far beyond what current cars possess. Any car that drives without a human—using only the computer—would need to understand every feature of the road, every rule, and make split-second navigation decisions to ensure safety. But these cars also would need to sense any upcoming obstacle. Cars are already being developed with these types of intelligent UX offerings. Nissan, for example, is working on its Invisible-to-Visible technology; one of the features includes sensors to detect upcoming obstacles (like pedestrians).Today’s vehicles integrate UX features that enhance the driving experience. Digitized dashboards create an advanced understanding of the vehicle diagnostics, and touchscreen entertainment hubs sync with phones to stream music and enhance communication options. Safety UX designs in vehicles today include augmented reality cameras that show the real-world environment and ease parking and navigation. The future, however, may offer the full UX design—the self-driving vehicle. The power of AI will provide for a hands-off driving experience that could turn the road into an entertainment and leisure space for passengers.

Rethinking Apple’s Smart Car Project

Rethinking Apple’s Smart Car Project

January 20, 2021

The future of automotive may be a self-driving car. Tesla is in the midst of this project. But tech giants may be getting into the action, too. There has been buzz swirling about the possibility of a smart car from Apple. This project has been discussed in many blogs and articles, including Forbes and Mac Rumors. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook confirmed the project in an interview with Bloomberg back in 2017. “We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” said Cook in an early June 2017 interview with Bloomberg Television. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.” But, as of now, there are no precise details, plans, or photos that have been released. However, the lack of fleshed-out details doesn’t keep the internet and tech writers from theorizing about all the possibilities involving Apple taking a juicy bite into the automotive sector. Rethinking Apple’s Smart Car Project [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-240.jpeg] THE FUTURE IS AUTOMATED Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google stay competitive by innovating; the tech sector demands evolution, it demands new products, faster speeds, and sleek concepts. Consumers often want the latest and greatest. Last year’s iPhone or Android just won’t cut it. The newer models always offer something their predecessor lacked. Innovation also is demanded from the automotive sector. For those on the hunt for a new car, updated features may prove to be a selling point. And what was once an upgraded feature—like backup cameras—have over the years become standard technology. As the consumer’s buying habits and preferences change, products must reflect the buyer’s demands. For the automotive industry, electric power is becoming the new fossil fuel.  Manufacturers have introduced electric models, and buyers may soon completely drive away from models that don’t rely on a plug to power-up. Global warming and other environmental concerns may have influenced this change, but the ever-changing price at the pump also might have pushed—and continue to push—buyers towards electric power. Beyond electric, though, is the idea of a completely autonomous vehicle. Powered not just by currents and computers but artificial intelligence. A decade ago, the idea of a self-driving car was probably something out of a futuristic sci-fi film. Now it’s becoming a reality. And perhaps everyone wants in. When the automotive future is AI, powered by technology, by programs, it would seem like a natural step for tech giants to bump into such a project. Who better to program an autonomous vehicle than those who know the ins and outs of such complicated systems? Apple isn’t the only player in the tech industry interested in automotive. While, yes, the idea of an Apple car generates buzz, interest, rumors,  Microsoft and Google might be hiding under the hood, too. Microsoft for Startups helps companies who want to make autonomous driving a reality. Microsoft states on its site: “Autonomous vehicles represent a digital transformation that will enable safer roads, efficient cities and a cleaner environment. This technology space is unique, with a complex set of challenges and sophisticated solutions. That is why we have created an exclusive program, specifically designed to empower startups in this space.” Let’s not forget Google! Investopedia covered Google’s future car endeavor, which began way back in 2009. Per Investopedia, Waymo is a subsidiary of Alphabet (Google’s parent company) that aims “…to make it safe and easy for people and things to get where they’re going. The Waymo Driver can improve the world’s access to mobility while saving thousands of lives now lost to traffic crashes.” Waymo’s focus on autonomous vehicles is safety, and, perhaps, ultimately the elimination of accidents. With humans behind the wheel, choice may play a role in vehicular accidents. However, with a computer behind the wheel, the idea is that these errors would be a concern of the past. Interestingly, Investopedia’s article about Waymo delves into the impact of a self-driving vehicle for other industries. As the site points out, a car that eliminates accidents could have serious implications for the insurance industry. However, the site also noted that even the airline industry could take a hit. Drivers don’t have to worry about feeling sleepy during a long drive, because AI’s in control! So it could be more convenient—and cheaper—to skip the flight and rely on that self-driving car! ZOOX! IT’S AMAZON! Amazon also nudged into the automotive sector with its autonomous taxi developed by Zoox (a company that was acquired by Amazon). The taxi was unveiled last month. According to CNBC, the ‘robotaxi’ is being tested in Las Vegas, San Francisco and Foster City, Calif. Competitors include Waymo and Cruise’s Origin (Cruise is a subsidiary of GM). Rethinking Apple’s Smart Car Project [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-241.jpeg] THE FEATURES OF A SELF-DRIVING CAR? As self-driving vehicles are still in development, the features are mere speculation. It would be reasonable to expect, however, that vehicles produced by the tech industry—Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft—eventually would be compatible with their products. If and when robotaxis become personal vehicles for the public, these vehicles might include unique features specific to each company’s own technology offerings. An Amazon-designed autonomous vehicle targeted for personal use might include features compatible with Alexa. Or perhaps Alexa is the voice behind the vehicle. The car could feature an Alexa driver who talks to passengers during the drive. And perhaps passengers can make requests for music, restaurant reservations or more. Apple’s autonomous vehicle would likely want to be compatible with all Apple products…and perhaps even feature Siri. Passengers could plug in their phones or tablets. Maybe car data pops up on the Apple Watch. The same ideas and concepts hold true for Google and Microsoft, too. As companies fine-tune the idea of autonomous vehicles, the models driving on the road could become incredibly tech savvy. Teleconferences could happen in the car. Avatars could pop into the vehicle. The engineers could release technology for these vehicles that could be absolute game-changers. Autonomous vehicles could become entertainment hubs! WHEN WILL AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES HIT THE ROAD? While the possibilities for autonomous vehicles are incredibly exciting, many companies have merely scratched the surface of this technology. All vehicles that are being developed or could be developed will likely have to go through many test runs to ensure safety. Launching a vehicle that drives itself requires the car to be smarter than any human. The car has to be programmed to understand every rule of the road and it has to be able to make movement decisions in split seconds based upon the actions of other vehicles on the road. Think about the decisions most drivers make during an average commute. Even a short commute! When the stop light turns red, drivers have to brake and stop. Yield signs mean that the driver has to give the right of way to another driver. Turning left on a busy street means understanding the speed of oncoming cars and knowing when it’s safe to make that turn. Autonomous cars have to understand all these intricacies to eliminate the possibility of any type of accident. For the car to be in control, the computer has to understand every piece of the puzzle. This would include multiple sensors throughout the vehicle. And many other unique features. So while the space-age concept of autonomous vehicles—and an Apple car!—will likely become a reality in the future, the question is really how far in the future will these cars make their debut. Robotaxis are already being tested, so this could lead to a new type of email services. For drivers looking for a car that does all the work for them, though, the wait may be quite a bit longer. AUGMENTED REALITY AND THE SMART CAR Writing for Forbes, Tim Bajarin theorized what he felt might be the reality of the much-hyped Apple smart car. Bajarin discussed the role of augmented reality and how, perhaps, Apple may be looking to integrate AR into vehicles and how this might also include the use of smart glasses. Apple did apply for a patent related to a mixed-reality windshield, so this theory could be accurate. However, it’s also possible that an augmented reality windshield could be one piece of an autonomous vehicle concept. If other players in the tech sector are eyeing a piece of the autonomous vehicle market, it would make sense that Apple would compete for this market share, too. So could all the buzz around an Apple car simply be linked to AR or mixed reality? It is a possibility. However, Mac Rumors noted that vehicles were spotted testing an autonomous driving software for Apple. Mac Rumors features pictures of the vehicles. While no one has a picture or exact idea regarding what an autonomous car will look like—for Apple or any of the big players—the ideas are really endless. Right now, autonomous vehicles are designed more for ridesharing type services. However, the future for drivers may be the driverless car. Which company introduces the first self-driving car in the market is perhaps the big race right now. Will it be Tesla? Amazon? Apple? Microsoft? Or Waymo?  Perhaps the first autonomous car aimed at consumers will be debuted from a major player in the auto industry. What is known is that the idea of an autonomous car is the tech-savvy future of this industry. And clearly everyone wants to take a bite out of this market!

AR May Be Advantageous to These Industries

AR May Be Advantageous to These Industries

January 15, 2021

Augmented reality might have featured prominently in sales and marketing tactics to elevate the consumer experience during Covid. Retail has used augmented reality platforms to provide virtual previews for clothes and makeup; customers could download a photo and then try on the products. Automotive companies have used augmented reality for new product launches (Lamborghini, for example!).   Other industries also have integrated augmented reality into their user experiences, but will the AR trend continue once Covid subsides and business as normal resumes? Augmented reality may be advantageous for five industries, according to AR Post. These industries, per the site, are sports, healthcare, tourism, events and housing. SPORTS During Covid, sports venues weren’t selling tickets for their games. Spectators became used to watching sporting events with no one in the audience. But some sports events integrated technology to create a unique user experience. NASCAR, for example, offered eNASCAR and the NASCAR iRacing Series. The series allowed competitors across the country to race at home…virtually.  Sporting News explained that these racing events weren’t games, but, rather, simulations. The simulations were a bit more virtual reality than augmented reality, however, back in 2019, NASCAR also released The NASCAR AR Burnout Experience by Goodyear. The augmented reality experience let users do burnouts with a virtual vehicle. CNBC reported that Major League Baseball also could be looking to leverage augmented reality into user experiences, perhaps using augmented reality glasses. Spectators are probably already used to seeing augmented reality in some form via sporting events, however. Watching football games, spectators often see play graphics superimposed on the field. In the future, however, sports organizations could create unique augmented reality experiences to enhance the viewing experience for those who may be watching from home. Or maybe virtual reality experiences mix into the real life spectatorship. Will the audience start viewing games through augmented reality glasses or virtual reality headsets? AR May Be Advantageous to These Industries [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-238.jpeg] HEALTHCARE Surgeons may use augmented reality technology to guide them in the operating room, but the Alliance of Advanced BioMedical Engineering points to several other ways this technology has enhanced the healthcare industry. The site points out that a dentist can use augmented reality via smart glasses to create more precise crowns. Nurses may use augmented reality for training simulations. Augmented reality also is used via MRI or CT scans to provide data to guide surgeons “…by superimposing stereoscopic projections during a surgical procedure.” There is even an AR game that helps gauge if pediatric patients can lie still long enough for an MRI or other procedure. Augmented reality is used throughout the healthcare industry, and, as this technology advances, it will likely become an even more crucial tool for the sector. During Covid, virtual doctor visits were commonplace. In the future, perhaps the doctor or nurse drops into a chair next to a patient at their home using augmented reality. Phones or tablets could be used to create an augmented virtual visit! HOUSING INDUSTRY The housing industry during Covid might have benefited from virtual experiences, especially virtual tours available online. But what about augmented reality? Real Trends notes that augmented reality may be used to provide potential buyers with virtual staging. That is, augmented reality platforms may be able to let buyers see an empty house fully furnished. Call this ‘virtual staging.’ Instead of a blank canvas, buyers could see the house as a potential home. Augmented reality is used by designers, too. Think of home shows where designers show homeowners what a renovation will look like. These design platforms may utilize the power of augmented reality to add in new features or swap out old appliances. The result is a preview of a future design. Augmented reality also can help builders (or REALTORS®) show potential buyers what their future home may look like. Picturing a new home on a bare piece of land takes some imagination, but augmented reality could help builders place a graphic overlay of the home on the land to give prospective buyers a better visualization of their home. EVENTS Virtual concerts were the new norm during Covid. Maybe this continues after Covid? Will events always look so different? Instead of buying tickets to a massive stadium filled with other concert-goers, many watched musicians perform remotely. Covid impacted other events, too. Broadway went silent. Even movies might have paused production during the worst of the pandemic. Instead of releasing new movies directly to major movie theatres, some studios released their potential blockbusters via streaming services or to both streaming services and theaters. The way moviegoers enjoyed their favorite flicks might have changed dramatically during Covid. Instead of buying tickets and concessions at the theater, many purchased their favorite snacks at stores and purchased their movie via services. The couch became the new theater seating. AR Post discussed how augmented reality changed other events, though. The site reported that back in 2018, almost 90 percent of event planners had planned to integrate some type of augmented reality. During Covid, conferences and trade shows obviously couldn’t take place. Different events like conferences or other events likely went virtual…or maybe integrated some type of augmented reality. Event hosts likely had to get creative to reimagine the in-person experience as something virtual while still providing users with a positive experience. The 2020 International Consumer Electronics Show was completely virtual. In a story via Exhibitor Online, it was reported that the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) explained its digital move via a press conference. The association’s senior vice president of marketing and communications, Jean Foster was quoted in Exhibitor Online’s article: “CES is one of the most experiential events in the world, where attendees can actually see and touch and experience the latest innovations. And while we can’t recreate that magic that happens in Las Vegas, we can bring our audiences a new, unique, all-digital experience,” said Foster, as noted in the article for Exhibitor Online. “We’ve been working for many months now to identify and create a solution that supports the uniqueness of CES. We knew that we couldn’t just take the existing trade show setup and move it online… So we threw out the playbook, and we decided not just to recreate CES, but also to reimagine it.” Reimagining events via virtual or augmented reality platforms could possibly become the norm. While trade shows may continue to be held each year, perhaps event hosts also launch online offerings to allow virtual attendance. Or maybe the trade shows or events offer special online virtual and augmented reality experiences as an extension of the in-person event. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-239.jpeg] TOURISM AR Post included tourism/travel among the industries it felt could benefit from augmented reality. During Covid, museums and other cultural venues and historic sites around the world shuttered. No one was really going on vacation during Covid, as many limited travel to only necessary trips. Perhaps many consumers saw a simple trip to the grocery store as a major outing. Back in May, the International Council of Museums reported that 95 percent were shuttered because of Covid. Keeping staff and guests safe became the major priority. Yet, closing meant a major loss of income for these institutions. Many museums, however, offered guests virtual tours and visits that were accessible online. Guests could sit at home and tour major art museums and galleries. While these didn’t take the place in-person visits, they did provide access to cultural experiences that would have otherwise been extremely limited during the pandemic. The Louvre, for example, offered online tours. The museum also has a special section on its web site just for kids that features stories and an online gallery. Perhaps these virtual or augmented reality experiences also encouraged online visitors to make donations or purchase items from online gift stores (if they were available). WHAT OTHER INDUSTRIES COULD BENEFIT FROM AUGMENTED REALITY? While AR Post highlighted five major industries that might benefit from augmented reality, this technology has far-reaching significance across numerous other industries, too. Augmented reality may continue to influence the retail and automotive industries, too. IKEA offers an augmented reality app called IKEA Place to allow shoppers to preview products in a real space. This helps shoppers better understand if a chair, rug or other décor element is going to work in their home. When shopping online, any experience that takes the guesswork out of a buying decision may be of value. Sephora and Ulta also both offer their customers the option to virtually try on products to gauge if a color or product is a good fit. Sephora offers Virtual Artist, and Ulta offers GLAMlab. Customers can upload a photo and then try on different beauty products before making their purchase. Not only can this possibly reduce returns but the augmented reality experiences also may improve customer experience. The automotive industry has used augmented reality in many capacities. Augmented reality is built into backup cameras to provide graphic overlay grid lines that illustrate the car’s turning radius. Manufacturers also have used augmented reality experiences to enhance marketing initiatives. Augmented reality also has been used to aid mechanics in repairs. Porsche’s Tech Live Look is a great example regarding how automotive manufacturers use augmented reality in repair work. Ferrari uses augmented reality via an app that provides an x-ray look at a vehicle and provides detailed views of other mechanical features (like the brakes); the app also lets shoppers switch out paint hues on cars in display at a dealership showroom. So what does augmented reality hold for the future of these industries? More uses of this technology could interweave into consumer experiences. In the healthcare industry, advances in augmented technology could provide even more insight during surgeries or other procedures. While the world may go back to the old normal after Covid, the use of augmented reality likely won’t dissipate. As industries explore new methods for implementing this technology, consumers could see their experiences elevated with both augmented reality and virtual reality technological features.

How Digital Moves Businesses Forward Into a Virtual World

How Digital Moves Businesses Forward Into a Virtual World

January 13, 2021

Digital has changed our social, business and education. During the pandemic, the online world kept Americans connected to jobs, teachers/schools and friends and loved ones. However, businesses also were impacted by the speed of digital. When shelter-in-place restrictions might have kept nonessential businesses closed, many, including the automotive industry, relied on online tools and opened their doors virtually. How did businesses use online tools to try to replicate the shopping experience or, in the case of non retail businesses, how did they replicate the office environment? Here’s a look at how digital moves businesses forward…even when normalcy is paused or slowed during the pandemic. How Digital Moves Businesses Forward Into a Virtual World [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-236.jpeg] CAR SHOPPING WENT ONLINE Buying a car online wasn’t the norm before Covid. While virtual car shopping was an option, most buyers likely stayed to the tried and true routine of car buying/shopping. For younger buyers, the buying process might have begun online before the pandemic to check out a dealership’s inventory or to view new models. Then, of course, the buyer would visit the dealership, maybe sit in several different cars and take a test drive of favorites. Discovering the dream car meant negotiating and then signing on the dotted line. This was, before Covid, probably the norm for most buyers. Older shoppers might have skipped the online visits. Maybe they wanted to see everything in person and had no desire to look at online inventory. Every buyer might have had their own buying process. However, once lockdowns started and businesses closed to foot traffic, even the car buying experience had to shift. Now an online presence had to be stealthy and beyond just those basic pictures. Dealerships began offering virtual showrooms to allow buyers to view the car inside and out from all angles. Some virtual showrooms even allowed shoppers to switch out wheel rims or view the car with a different paint hue. And what about those test drives? Some dealerships offered to bring the car to buyers. Maybe this meant that the buyer scheduled for a virtual test drive. Some dealerships provided virtual test drives via videos. The goal for many dealerships was likely to try to come close to replicating the in-person shopping experience. While the online world couldn’t completely mirror an real-life shopping experience, virtual reality and augmented reality allowed dealerships to capture some of the similarities of shopping in-person. Of course, virtual customer service assistants also likely played a role in the process. These virtual assistants weren’t necessarily virtual like those found in smartphones or other devices, online virtual assistants were likely real individuals handling customer questions and concerns via an online chat function. Still, when salespeople were not necessarily available—as they would be at the physical dealership—offering customer service assistance helped customers navigate this virtual shopping experience. WORKING VIRTUALLY AND VIRTUAL REALITY FOR DEVELOPMENT AND UNVEILING NEW MODELS During Covid, many Americans have worked from home. Many are STILL working from home. Car manufacturers also took their business virtual. Back in March, at the start of the pandemic, The Verge reported that manufacturers had their employees head home to do their job duties. However, according to the story, those who worked in the factories—on the assembly lines—didn’t have such an option. Virtual reality also aided the industry during the pandemic. CNBC reported that General Motors used virtual reality in developing the 2022 GMC Hummer EV. The company also continued to work on their self-driving, ride-hailing car Cruise Origin during the pandemic, although it wasn’t clear if virtual reality played a role. However, in an article at FoxNews, it was reported that Barra noted that the GMC HUMMER EV and the Cadillac Lyric SUV would be unveiled online using virtual and augmented reality. VIRTUAL EXPERIENCES Virtual and augmented reality allowed consumers to immerse in cultural and entertainment experiences while stuck at home. Museums, while shut during the pandemic, went online offering virtual galleries and even virtual tours. Even now, couch travelers can visit the Louvre, the Sistine Chapel and museums around the world to view art and exhibits. Can’t book a flight for a vacation? Take a virtual vacation. YouTube videos and other web sites offered tours of historic sites…virtually. Some even allowed visitors at home to take a virtual trek through the canopy of the Amazon Rainforest. Car manufacturers plugged in to virtual too. In May, Lamborghini launched an augmented reality experience for its Huracan EVO RWD Spyder. Bored during the pandemic? Drop a Lamborghini onto the bed! Yes, the new Lamborghini could be virtually placed anywhere in a room (or outdoors). The app then allowed users to explore all around the new vehicle! The experience is still available…and it’s really cool! VIRTUAL MARKETING Lamborghini’s augmented reality experience also was a creative way to use digital platforms to create a unique marketing experience for users. While not everyone can afford a Lamborghini, the experience brought the car into homes across the globe. Of course, dealerships and manufacturers also used other digital marketing experiences during Covid. Virtual showrooms are a great example of how dealerships could create an experience to help drive sales…or interest in vehicles. Many buyers like to see and feel items before they purchase; while virtual experiences can give tactile feedback, virtual experiences can provide potential buyers or even casual window shoppers with a better glimpse of a product. After all, three dimensional views tend to be much more impressive than flat photos! OTHER INDUSTRIES WENT ONLINE TO SURVIVE AND THRIVE, TOO! During Covid, a lot of shopping jumped online…including car shopping. But, let’s be honest, online shopping is nothing new. It’s been around for decades now. Still, not everyone jumped at the chance to load up their virtual shopping carts. Until, perhaps, there was no other option. Online car buying was never really a ‘norm’ before Covid. But the pandemic changed the way consumers shopped…even for big purchases. Those who desperately needed a new vehicle but couldn’t go into the dealership had to shop somehow. Virtual showrooms provided a new way to check out all the new car models available.   Lockdowns also meant that many Americans couldn’t just get in their car (even if it was a new car that was purchased online!), drive to the store and peruse the merchandise. Yes, stores that sold both food and clothes likely stayed open. Mall stores or those that sold nonessential items were probably shut—depending on the region and local mandates. If a consumer really wanted a new leather jacket, and they couldn’t find it at a big box retailer that also happened to carry essentials, they were likely out of luck. If that shopper really wanted that jacket, though, they could pull up their web browser and search the internet. Stores galore were open online! And what about beauty stores and boutiques that sold luxury items? Those were online too. The internet became the mall. Shopping went virtual. And stores that were already incredibly visible online likely discovered that the transition was smoother than those who hadn’t kept up with the digital revolution. There is a difference between merely offering products online and providing a digital shopping experience. Many stores or retailers likely tried their best to mimic or replicate the in-store experiences. Beauty stores like Ulta and Sephora already offered tools that allowed consumers to preview products via augmented reality-type apps. Shoppers could upload a picture and try on lipstick, blush or other products. During a time when real visits to stores were limited, the option to preview purchases and eliminate guesswork likely helped to elevate the shopping experiences for consumers. Stores selling clothes might have offered a similar digital experience online. A virtual changing/fitting room might have allowed customers to download a photo and digitally overlay dresses, tops, bottoms and other garments. Again, the guesswork of how the item would look on the individual was virtually eliminated. Many consumers also likely realized some very obvious advantages to shopping online during the pandemic. Hunting for something in the store meant a trip—even if it was small. Most consumers also probably didn’t show up to the store in their pajamas. And store visits were limited to the hours they were open. Online shopping, however, had no rules. Shop in your pajamas! Shop at 1 a.m. Shop from the couch. Or the bed. Or the toilet (it’s probably happened!). There were no store hours, no dress codes. Convenience was so very convenient. The same non-rules held true for car shopping during the pandemic. If the dealerships were closed and buying went online, shoppers could hunt for a car whenever. The digital showroom had no salespeople, no stress, no lines. How Digital Moves Businesses Forward Into a Virtual World [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-237.jpeg] WHAT’S NEXT? The future in the automotive industry will likely bring many new changes—electric cars, self-driving cars maybe more online shopping. Will consumers prefer buying a car online after Covid? That might depend on the buyer’s personal preferences. However, manufacturers might embrace more digital marketing endeavors like Lamborghini’s augmented reality experience. So what does the digital future look like for the automotive industry? Kids—the future—may have the answer. Toyota launched a contest for kids called the Toyota Dream Car USA Art Contest. The company challenges kids to come up with their dream car…and the ideas are whatever they can imagine. Perhaps the next dream car of a child’s imagination will be the future vehicle we drive.

The New Digital Shopping Journey for Automotive Consumers

The New Digital Shopping Journey for Automotive Consumers

January 6, 2021

The way that consumers shop for and purchase a new vehicle has evolved over the years. Ten years ago, the average consumer visited between five to seven automotive dealerships prior to purchasing a vehicle. But now, the automotive customer journey primarily takes place in the digital world. Because of this shift to the digital world, today’s average consumer only visits one dealership prior to purchasing a vehicle. Every company in the automotive industry must be prepared to sell to consumers in the digital world in order to stay competitive. But first, they must understand the different stages of the digital shopping journey for automotive consumers. STAGE 1: DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT The first stage of the digital shopping journey for automotive consumers is digital engagement, which is similar to the awareness stage of the classic consumer buying cycle. The goal of this stage is to increase brand awareness among your target audience. Your target audience should not only be familiar with your brand but also should understand how you are different from your competitors. Focus on promoting the latest news related to your brand to keep your target audience informed. Automotive brands should use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Instagram to connect with consumers during this stage of the buying journey. Facilitating two-way communication between your brand and target audience is the key to succeeding during this stage. Social media platforms give brands the opportunity to connect directly with consumers, so you should use this to your advantage. Respond to consumers’ questions, comments, and complaints on social media. Thank consumers for their feedback, regardless of whether or not it is positive. Not only is this a great way to engage with consumers, but it will also give you the chance to show off your brand’s unique personality. STAGE 2: VIRTUAL ENGAGEMENT & CONFIGURATION The next stage in the digital buying journey is virtual engagement and configuration, which is similar to the information gathering stage of the classic consumer buying cycle. Take engagement with your target audience to the next level during this stage of the buying journey. The purpose of the first stage was to inform your audience and respond to all social media interactions. But go one step further during this stage by working with them one-on-one to help them find the information they need in real-time. Automotive brands should use live chats, virtual reality showrooms, video chats, and their website to reach consumers during this stage of the buying journey. For example, automotive brands could offer digital consumers video consultations to help them find the right vehicle for their lifestyle and budget. Automotive companies could also create virtual showrooms for their online consumers. Inside these showrooms, consumers can connect directly with a sales representative who can take them on a virtual tour of a specific vehicle. In other words, the goal should be to create a personalized sales pitch for each of your digital consumers. This will make consumers feel as if they are walking the showroom floor with a sales representative without ever stepping foot inside a dealership. STAGE 3: DEDICATED CROSS-CHANNEL ASSISTANCE The third stage in the digital shopping journey for automotive consumers is dedicated cross-channel assistance. A consumer who enters this stage of the buying journey has already conducted research regarding their options and tentatively decided on which model they are interested in purchasing. But now, they are interested in using an online car configurator to customize their vehicle. They want to be able to build their own vehicle, see what the vehicle will look like in various colors, and find out exactly how much it will cost to purchase their custom creation. This is an important stage in the digital buying journey. In fact, meeting your customer’s needs during this stage is the key to closing the deal. But unfortunately, many automotive brands lose touch with their customers during this stage. Automotive brands should use live chats or video consultations to guide consumers through this stage. Walk them through how to use the online car configuration tool. Help them finalize the add-on features, colors, and other design elements of their custom vehicle. To succeed during this stage, focus on responding quickly to consumers and providing personalized advice. Be prepared to provide in-person support at your dealership if a consumer needs additional assistance. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/DigitalShoppingJourneyforAutomotiveConsumers-2.jpg] STAGE 4: PERSONAL DRIVING EXPERIENCE After completing the dedicated cross-channel assistance stage, a consumer moves into the personal driving experience stage of the digital automotive shopping journey. The test drive is a crucial stage in the decision-making process for automotive consumers. But it can present a unique challenge to automotive brands, who must be able to figure out how to offer a test drive to digital consumers. There are two ways to meet the digital consumer’s journey during this phase. First, automotive brands can offer consumers the opportunity to take a virtual test drive. A virtual test drive, which is powered by virtual reality technology, allows consumers to see what it’s like to sit behind the wheel of a vehicle without ever leaving the comfort of their home. The second option is making it easier for digital consumers to schedule and take an in-person test drive. For example, give consumers the option to schedule a test drive through your website. Allow them to confirm their identity and provide required documentation online to reduce the amount of time they have to spend at the dealership. Automotive brands could also offer to bring the vehicle to the consumer so they can take a test drive in their neighborhood without having to visit the dealership. The goal of this stage is to make the test drive as easy and convenient as possible for digital consumers. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/DigitalShoppingJourneyforAutomotiveConsumers-1-1.jpg] STAGE 5: EXCLUSIVE & CUSTOM OFFER The fifth stage in the digital buying journey is the exclusive and custom offer. In the traditional consumer buying cycle, this stage is part of the purchase phase. The automotive brand and the consumer complete their transaction during this stage. But this involves much more than simply clicking a button or providing a digital signature. Remember, a vehicle is a significant financial investment, so consumers may need additional support in order to feel comfortable with the decision to close the deal. Make yourself available to consumers during this stage of the process via phone, video consultation, and live chat. If consumers aren’t adequately supported during this stage, they may get cold feet and completely back out of the deal. Be sure to give consumers the opportunity to sign their contract online so they don’t need to visit the dealership in person to finalize the deal. They should be able to provide a digital signature in order to complete the purchase of their vehicle. STAGE 6: ONGOING ENGAGEMENT The sixth stage, which is ongoing engagement, is also part of the purchase phase of the traditional consumer buying cycle. The goal of the fifth stage is to get the consumer to sign the contract and close the deal. But the goal of this stage is to keep them engaged between the time the contract is signed and the time their vehicle is delivered. One way to keep customers engaged is to create personalized videos for them in the days or weeks leading up to the arrival of their vehicle. Take them behind the scenes to see the production process of their vehicle or send them a video of their vehicle driving off the lot on its way to their home. Send these videos via email or text. If there is a long wait between the time the contract is signed and the time the vehicle is delivered, be sure to send regular updates to the consumer. They shouldn’t feel like they are no longer important to you simply because they already signed the contract. Use this time to build excitement and strengthen your relationship with your customer. STAGE 7: ENHANCED EXPERIENCE THROUGH IN-CAR ASSISTANCE The enhanced experience through the in-car assistance phase is the final stage in the digital automotive shopping journey. At this point, the consumer is already in possession of their vehicle, but that doesn’t mean the digital buying journey is over. Now, the goal is to retain this customer so they always purchase vehicles from your company instead of going to a competitor. To retain a customer, focus on providing additional services such as routine maintenance and repairs. Allow customers to schedule these appointments online to make it as convenient as possible for them. You should also follow up with each customer to ensure they are completely satisfied with their vehicle. If they aren’t satisfied, make an effort to address their concerns. Use connected in-car features to interact with your customers. For example, use these features to share the latest news or brand updates with customers who are already driving your vehicles. Buying a vehicle is a significant financial investment, which is why today’s consumers expect extraordinary, personalized customer service at every stage in the digital shopping journey. Experts believe that the number of consumers who shop for a vehicle online will continue to grow in the future. For this reason, it’s important for automotive companies to invest heavily in meeting the demands of these new digital consumers.