Dealer Handbook 101: Buying A Car Online
September 16, 2020
Buying a car in-person can be a long and, quite frankly, annoying process. Few people can say they actually enjoy going to a dealership. The long negotiations with a salesman, possible hours of waiting for financing and processing paperwork, and walking through a dealership to look at and test drive several cars to find the right one can overwhelm and turn off many potential buyers. Today, the Internet and technology have completely transformed the car buying process and consumers now have the option of buying a car online. Now, shoppers can get all the information they need without even having to step foot into a dealership. Buying a car online is becoming easier and easier and will likely be the preferred way to shop for a vehicle in the future. Because of this trend, more and more consumers are doing the research before the buying process even begins, and they are becoming more knowledgeable about the vehicles they are shopping for. This can make a dealer’s job even easier as working with knowledgeable shoppers means you can have a more meaningful selling experience. On the other hand, you might come across prospective car buyers or leasers who are jumping into the online car shopping experience blindly. Common questions that car shoppers might be asking themselves are: * Which car is best? * Which car is right for me? * Can I afford it? * Am I getting a deal? * Where should I buy it? Guiding your client virtually can help them get the answers they need and help you guarantee a sale. WHICH CAR IS BEST? Figuring out which car can best suit your client’s needs takes some research and time. Your buyer might be eyeing a few options already but are not quite sure which make and model would be best. Generally, buyers already have an idea of what they might be looking for before they even get in contact with you. However, you might get a few who have not done any research or are in need of a vehicle as soon as possible. Assisting them in the research stage of the car buying experience can help give you a leg up and is an opportunity to educate yourself on what is currently available on the market. Quite often consumers are concerned with: * Fuel mileage * Style * Ease of operation * Safety features * Affordability Providing this information upfront online can help your client become more knowledgeable and confident in your credibility. That being said, the “best” car out there might not necessarily be the “best” car for your client. What you need to focus on is understanding what your client is actually looking for and know which car features will fit their needs. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-35.jpeg] WHICH CAR IS RIGHT FOR ME? Buyers are often searching for a car that will fit their lifestyle but also their budget. Dealerships today need to be interacting and communicating with buyers before they even come into the showroom. Providing information and a truly immersive online shopping experience can help buyers easily figure out which car is right for them. Along with including detailed photos and information about each vehicle, dealers can also bring the experience of shopping at a dealership to their buyers virtually. Buyers want to know more and more about the vehicle they are purchasing and to do so from the comfort of their own home can help you make a sale right away. A virtual showroom can help clients find the right car for them and guarantees a sale for dealers. Virtual showrooms are now much more than a gallery full of photos. Thanks to A.I. companies such as RelayCars, dealerships can now give clients a more in-depth and detailed look of vehicles online. Virtual reality showrooms can give buyers the experience of actually being inside the car without even having to go to a dealership. They can find the right car for them and explore a vehicle’s interior and features all from home. Virtual reality showrooms are truly the key factor in setting your dealership apart from the many different online auto shops. Your buyer is likely looking for a car that not only has all the right features they want but also the price that they want. CAN I AFFORD IT? Once a buyer finds the right vehicle for them, the next step is to find the right price point. Some buyers might even start the process in reverse. They may have a set budget in mind then use that as the basis for their search for the right car. Understanding what an online car buyer is looking for in terms of financing can help you determine what tools and information they may need. Dealers should then include the information on their virtual showroom site. A monthly payment is often not the only financial woe that online buyers are considering. When it comes to a car budget many salesmen only think of what the buyer will be spending for the vehicle itself. However, remember, today’s online shoppers are more knowledgeable and want to know potential repair costs, maintenance, and gas mileage. They want to know not just the actual value of the car but also what they will likely be spending on the vehicle in the long run. Of course, a big part of the car buying process for a buyer is getting a good deal on a vehicle. You will likely come across very few buyers who are willing to pay the presented price on a vehicle. However, in a virtual buying experience it can be difficult to implement the same negotiation tools and processes without meeting in person. So how can you help your buyer get the best deal for them and for you in an online experience? [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-36.jpeg] AM I GETTING A DEAL? Even after finding the right car and maybe even with the right price point, buyers still want to make sure they are getting the best deal they can find. Making sure you are advertising your promos and offers on your website and virtual showroom can help you attract more buyers. If you are working with an online buyer, you can offer to have a virtual appointment with them to discuss promos and negotiations. This can also give you a chance to provide a personal touch to the online shopping experience. Including features such as a car calculator or leasing calculator to your virtual showroom can give your buyers an idea of what they could be saving and spending on a vehicle and gives them a base price to start off negotiations. WHERE SHOULD I BUY IT? Online car buyers are likely not like your average shoppers that walk into a dealership. These clients are smart, tech savvy, and knowledgeable. Most likely they are not in a rush to purchase and want to spend enough time researching and making their decision. This means dealers need to provide ample information and be just as informed as they are. Buyers online are more careful and thoughtful before committing and signing. Often they will check various dealers online before contacting a dealership. So, how can you make sure that you are attracting online shoppers? First, by providing online features that can help them become informed about the vehicle they are shopping for. As mentioned, having more than a gallery of photos can set you apart from other online dealerships. A virtual showroom can entice and impress potential buyers. They are able to view the car as if they are actually at the dealership, but they are at the comfort of their own home. Second, dealers should still create a personalized experience online by providing chat options on the virtual showroom so shoppers can still talk to a salesperson online. Dealers can even take it a step further and video chat with shoppers in order to show them the car online and shoppers can request specific angles or footage of the vehicle they are potentially buying. Finally, being transparent with your potential buyers can help build that same rapport and credibility that you build in person. Your virtual showroom should still provide as much information as possible for your shopper to be well informed. The site should also include information about vehicle costs as well as loan and payment information. SELLING ONLINE BRINGS PROFITS Ultimately, selling online can completely revolutionize how your dealership does business and can help to improve sales. Remember, online car buyers are well-informed and careful about their purchases, which actually means they are likely to be more committed to signing once they find the right vehicle for the right price. Providing an online experience that replicates a visit to the dealership through a virtual showroom can help them make an informed decision and helps you lock in a sale. Companies like RelayCars can provide an interactive online shopping experience for buying a car online that can even exceed the in-person environment. You can interact with buyers from all over the world and provide an overall experience that can enhance the online buying experience for clients.
The 2020 Guide to Augmented Reality
September 15, 2020
While once a technology considered futuristic, augmented reality now interweaves into our daily lives, elevating experiences and helping us to understand buying choices. Augmented reality has become so widespread both in business and personal use, that by 2025 this sector is expected to hit nearly $200 billion. In 2019, only about 13 percent used augmented reality in some capacity. Now, in the midst of the Covid pandemic, most of us are using a platform or app that offers this technology. What is augmented reality and how do we use it? Here is our Ultimate Guide to Augmented Reality. AUGMENTED REALITY VS. VIRTUAL REALITY Don’t conflate augmented reality with virtual reality. Both technologies are unique and offer different user experiences. Virtual reality technology provides users with an alternative virtual world to create a real-life experience in a digital space. Virtual reality is popular for video games and is used to take the gamer into the world of the game; these virtual video games usually include headsets that the player wears to interact with the gaming realm. Virtual reality also is commonly used to create simulations for employees as training tools. Examples of this include flight simulators used by pilots or even customer service simulations for new retail employees. These simulations are created using special headsets that transport users into a virtual realm where they can interact with virtual characters and navigate through different scenarios. Stores and automotive dealerships have used virtual reality to create interactive shopping experiences that can be accessed remotely. During the pandemic, dealerships and automobile manufacturers provided customers with a virtual showroom that allowed them to view all aspects of a vehicle model. These virtual reality platforms sometimes allowed shoppers to change paint colors or other features, too. Clothing stores may have offered virtual options, too, so shoppers could view products from different angles. While virtual reality transports users into a separate digital space, augmented reality, as defined by Live Science, “is the result of using technology to superimpose information — sounds, images and text — on the world we see.” Augmented reality is used in the gaming world, too, and one of the best examples is Pokemon Go!; this game takes players on a hunt for Pokemon characters by projecting their virtual images into real-life backdrops. The use of augmented reality, though, is most commonly found in the gadgets we rely on daily. ARE VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS AUGMENTED REALITY? Virtual assistants are one of the most prevalent uses of interactive technology. Calling out ‘Hey, Siri…’ will summon the iPhone’s virtual assistant. This simple command might not seem so high-tech, but the capabilities of these assistants illustrate the future complexity of augmented reality. Siri, Google and Alexa now can control our daily activities and, in the case of Alexa, our homes, too. The intelligence of these assistants goes beyond the mundane task of simply calculating a simple math problem or finding a local restaurant. Alexa, Siri and Google, while programmed to search the web and its contents, also hold control over other gadgets in our lives. These virtual assistants can schedule tasks and appointments, remind us of important details and meetings, make calls or send texts, they can dictate notes, but they also can manage the Internet of Things. Our homes were once hardwired with cord and plugs; to turn an appliance or device on or off, we either used a remote control or had to manually make these changes. The Internet of Things (or IoT) has elevated the manual into the digital. Plugs and powerstrips feature a computerized intelligence; electricity may power the lights, HVAC thermostat or coffee maker, but technology links it to our augmented reality assistants. With these smart strips and plugs, Alexa can turn off the lights, adjust the temperature, or even brew the coffee. Alexa, Siri and Google provide convenience in the form of automated technology, but these assistants don’t fit the true definition of augmented reality. However, virtual assistants can represent the future of augmented reality. For example, Amazon has already taken Alexa to the next level with Echo Frames, glasses that can summon Alexa! [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-32.jpeg] GPS & NAVIGATION DEVICES FEATURE AUGMENTED REALITY Some navigation systems or GPS devices use augmented reality to help drivers better understand their surroundings while driving. Street views may provide a real-life glimpse of the route, while a digital representation of the automobile is shown on the screen in movement. Sygic’s GPS utilizes augmented reality, and the company states “…the AR feature is not only intuitive but it’s also safer than traditional navigation apps. Drivers can rest assured they won’t miss anything crucial on roads or highways, as the real-time camera preview enables them to check conditions on the screen without impacting driving safety.” Many new car models also feature augmented reality built into the navigation system. Smart rear view mirrors utilize cameras to provide drivers with a more precise glimpse of the road—and the vehicles– behind them. These mirrors also may offer an illuminated vantage point in darker road conditions or in poorly lit areas like a parking garage. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-33.jpeg] AUGMENTED REALITY FOR THE HOME If you’re in the market to buy new furniture, you might have used an app to preview a paint color or even the look of new furniture. These apps provide shoppers with the technology to try out a design or new look before they make a purchase, and, yes, they are all examples of augmented reality. The Ikea Place app lets shoppers move a new piece of furniture into any space…virtually. Try out a new sofa or desk and see if it complements your living room or bedroom. For shoppers, this feature takes the guesswork out of a new purchase and could perhaps encourage them to try out other accessories, too. Glidden’s Room Visualizer enables homeowners to swipe different shades of paint onto the walls of any room without any commitment. Try out different hues to see which colors best compliment the space and the furniture. Other paint manufacturers and stores offer similar apps and programs. AUGMENTED REALITY FOR MARKETING Companies often use augmented reality to market their products to customers; in fact, this may be a really popular technique to build curiosity and excitement about a new launch. You might have even participated in a few of these unique experiences. Before the second season of the series Stranger Things, Hubspot reported that Netflix used augmented reality to bring viewers into the scenes from the show; Snapchat lenses transported viewers into the Byers’ home…yes, demogorgons were included. Hubspot also reported that AMC used augmented reality in its theaters as a means to encourage guests to check out details on upcoming features. Guests who downloaded the AMC app could snap a photo of a movie poster hanging in the theater to access more information about the movie. Sephora continuously uses augmented reality to help market its products. The Sephora app lets customers try on makeup products virtually. Snap a photo and then see how a new shade of lipstick will look on you! This feature may help Sephora reduce returns, as customers feel confident that a shade complements their complexion. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-34.jpeg] AUGMENTED REALITY FOR KIDS Parents could be using augmented reality to keep kids entertained and to elevate experiences. Apps are transforming coloring books and reading, too! Disney’s Coloring Book app integrates traditional coloring fun with interactive elements that turn those two-dimensional images into interactive characters. While kids color the flat images in their coloring books, characters also show up as 3D images on the screen. While Disney’s app takes its coloring pages to another level, Fatherly reports that Holotats takes the temporary tattoo fun to an interactive level. With these tattoos, children can snap a photo and then see them in action…literally. Every design is animated! Kids and adults who sign onto the Wizarding World app (once known as Pottermore), they can participate in a virtual sorting ceremony with the Sorting Hat. The app can access the camera to bring the user into the experience. The My Very Hungry Caterpillar app also uses augmented reality. The cute little caterpillar from the story can be integrated in a child’s world—from the house and into nature! This app lets children immerse into the story and the character’s experiences. Star Walk Kids helps children understand the cosmos. Fatherly highlighted this app, which offers interactive features that help decipher the stars. Just point the phone’s camera up at the sky, and the app will illustrate details and explain the viewpoints. While many kids are engaging in virtual learning during the pandemic, there are many apps that utilize augmented reality that can help engage children in the learning experience. The Seek app helps children (and adults, too!) immerse into nature and biological science. Users snap photos of any plant, animal or bug, and the app will identify the species. This app can be used while hiking or exploring outdoors to help better understand all the life that exists out in nature. AUGMENTED REALITY TO REIMAGINE YOUR LAWN DESIGN If augmented reality can be used to preview new furniture and paint color, why shouldn’t it be used to redesign your backyard? For homeowners who want a new look for their landscape, augmented reality allows them the chance to redesign their surroundings. The app iScape lets homeowners add in different trees, flowers and shrubs. Snap images of your yard and start creating a new design by swapping in new landscape details for a preview of your new lawn. The app also provides planting tips. Apps like iScape are perfect for homeowners who aren’t quite sure what look they want to achieve for their lawn. Augmented reality provides an opportunity to play around with different ideas without commitment. While a certain design idea might sound perfect, a homeowner could see it against the backdrop of their home and decide it just won’t work. AUGMENTED REALITY: SOCIAL MEDIA FILTERS AND TELECONFERENCING The most utilized form of augmented reality—at least right now—might just be teleconferencing. Many businesses continue to operate remotely, and this means most employees are conducting meetings virtually using teleconferencing apps like Zoom. How is the teleconference a form of augmented reality, though? If you’ve changed your backdrop to appear as though you’re on a beach or somewhere else, you’ve stepped into the realm of augmented reality during the conference. These features allow us to take the boring backgrounds of our home offices, living rooms and kitchens and transform them into a tropical paradise or even project a window with a beautiful scenic backdrop. Filters also are one of the ways we commonly use augmented reality in the social media realm. Instagram’s filters allow users to modify their images with dog ears and other fun and cute superimposed details. With these features, users can transform their image into something unique…or even perfect their looks. AUGMENTED REALITY TO PREVIEW PHYSICAL CHANGES The need to perfect or streamline aspects of physical appearance may inspire an individual to contemplate cosmetic surgery. Some look to celebrities for the features they desire, but will Angelina Jolie’s features complement an individual’s own unique face shape? Augmented reality apps also can provide physical previews of cosmetic changes. With certain apps, individuals can change the size of their nose or other facial details to see how cosmetic surgery may alter their appearance. Those who are uncertain about the procedure may use these apps to play around with different looks, too. After all, programs and apps aren’t permanent! Even little changes, though, can be previewed using augmented reality. Ever wonder if you would look good with pink streaks in your hair? Or maybe if you should rock a pixie cut. Big hair changes can instill complete fear to those who are accustomed to their current look…even when they crave something new. The Daily Mail cited a survey from Toni & Guy that about 20 percent of women have “burst into tears after leaving a hairdressing salon.” Bad haircuts are a horror that can take weeks, if not months or years, to fully grow out. Augmented reality apps allow an individual to preview a hair change to see if that look really would work. Finding out via an app that a cut looks more like an ‘80s-inspired mullet than punk princess can stop the tears from flowing by dodging a hair disaster. AUGMENTED REALITY IS…EVERYWHERE! Augmented reality has infiltrated our lives in so many ways. Many of us use some type of augmented reality app every day. If you regularly teleconference using Zoom and alter your background during those meetings, you’ve embraced the world of augmented reality. Many companies also use this technology to elevate marketing by encouraging users to explore their products in a semi-virtual realm. Homeowners can utilize virtual reality apps to preview paint colors, furniture concepts and even add flowers and unique landscape designs to their lawn. For children who are in the midst of virtual learning, augmented reality apps also can enhance the educational experience; Star Walk allows kids to explore the cosmos and Seek helps children identify all the life in nature. While virtual assistants aren’t technically a form of augmented reality, even these platforms are stepping into this realm; Amazon’s Echo Frames are smart glasses that interact with Alexa! Augmented reality surrounds us and enhances the way we see the world, shop and interact…and the future developments of this technology will likely integrate into more of our daily habits. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-5.png]
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Market Trends in the Automotive Industry
September 14, 2020
Augmented reality and virtual reality technology has exploded in the automotive industry, within both the self-driving and standard markets. Continental, HARMAN International, Microsoft, Visteon, Volkswagen, HTC, NVIDIA, Unity, AutoVRse, Bosch are some of the industry’s top leaders, and each manufacturer has something unique to offer to its consumer base. By enhancing road safety and accessibility for a wide variety of vehicles on the market, check out the main augmented reality and virtual reality trends that are growing in the automotive industry. SEAMLESS SHOPPING EXPERIENCE Before drivers even leave the lot, virtual reality is changing the way customers shop for new vehicles. For people who prefer to shop exclusively online, virtual reality gives shoppers a much clearer picture of their prospective purchase. While photos can show the appearance of the vehicle, VR showroom apps allow the customer to “test drive” the car from the comfort of their home. Virtual reality applications include helpful functions like: * Virtual “behind-the-wheel” view * Simplified technical details * Improved engagement with the vehicle’s features * Real-time customization * Ability to test the vehicle virtually through various terrains and driving conditions PREVENT BUYER’S REMORSE AND IMPROVE CUSTOMER SATISFACTION Nowadays, shoppers don’t want to spend more time than necessary during the selection process. They come to the dealership with research and data in hand, and want to leave with their dream car as soon as possible. 360-degree walkthrough videos and immersive presentations give buyers even more preparedness before they sign on the dotted line. This provides customers with an additional sense of security and confidence in their purchase. In addition to improving your conversion rate, this can also add to your dealership’s client satisfaction rate and reputation. REDUCE COSTS FOR DEALERS Furthermore, using virtual and augmented reality tech to sell cars (both online and in store) can reduce costs dramatically for dealers by reducing inventory and operational costs. Since customers can test the car without physically entering a test vehicle, you can give an unlimited number of virtual test drives via a digital program or application. Additionally, potential buyers can customize their virtual vehicle anyway they like – from exterior color to interior material to choosing the bells and whistles they want. Customer engagement is another factor that heavily influences a dealership’s profitability over time. When there are so many brands in the auto sale industry, this is one tech upgrade that can truly set dealers apart from their competition. Using this system to market inventory allows sellers to downsize and reduce the amount of units they keep onsite. This can heavily impact staffing costs, leasing fees, and more. PROVIDE REALISTIC TEST DRIVE CONDITIONS You can only learn so much about a car on a drive around a city block. For more adventurous drivers who plan on taking more rugged drives, this kind of test does little more than show off the car’s interior. Virtual reality programs and built-in augmented reality capabilities can give drivers a real-life idea about how a car will perform on steep hills, uneven roads, or even sandy dunes. Using motion-detection and projected objects in coordination with the actual movement of the vehicle, potential buyers can get more out of a controlled-track test drive than they would with traditional methods. Not only can this increase the customer’s level of confidence in their purchase, but the same technology is improving safety and functionality during the initial prototype testing phase. By working out potential bugs and issues before the car ever hits the lot, this technology is reducing recalls and after-market adjustments for top auto manufacturers. From the service line to the customer’s driveway, virtual reality and augmented reality is making the driving experience safer and more enjoyable for all types of drivers. RISING DEMAND FOR DRIVING SAFETY Perhaps the largest motivator for augmented reality and virtual reality innovation is the demand for increased consumer safety. Utilizing advanced sensor technology that includes radar, imaging, display projections, and other peripheral visual guides can increase driver and passenger safety significantly. In-vehicle safety includes a variety of components, from distracted driving to lack of navigation support. Augmented reality and virtual reality platforms can provide drivers and passengers, respectively, with all of the information they need to guarantee a seamless drive. Using peripheral or superimposed displays over the individuals direct line of sight, users can view information without impairing their vision and causing danger for anyone on the road. Standard applications and tools currently include: * Dynamic navigation and directions * Traffic information * Weather reporting * Automobile maintenance data * Blindspot protection Instead of relying on difficult-to-use auxiliary devices to follow your driving route or keep up on auto repairs, AR/VR technology removes these cumbersome distractions from the equation. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-30.jpeg] ENHANCED SENSOR TECHNOLOGIES Cars often come equipped with anti-blind spot sensors, but applying this technology to augmented reality adds another layer of depth and dimension to these tools. Sensor tech that was first pioneered by video game engineers is now becoming available as a feature for consumer vehicles. Augmented reality uses sensors to create a 3-D image of out-of-view objects, which can improve the driver’s blind spot view using stereo vision. Compared to standard sensors which use proximity and motion to alert the driver, this method gives the driver a comprehensive view of everything that surrounds the vehicle. From pedestrians to animals to road blockages, using augmented reality to enhance your visibility and blind spot protection is just another simple way to keep everyone safe on the road. IMPROVED ADVANCED DRIVING SYSTEMS (ADS) While many vehicles have already been incorporating a surface-level AR integration, virtual reality and augmented reality technology is now helping drivers make helpful predictions. From service alerts to traffic warnings, autonomous driving predictions and ADS tech is another aspect of the market that is keeping auto owners safe. This level of protection is revolutionary for standard and electric vehicles. By displaying stereoscopic visual guides, drivers can safely view: * Guidance hints * Navigational information * Destination points * Construction/safety alerts * Operational information * Fuel/mechanical/maintenance data Additionally, the incorporation of holographic imagery provides a higher level of visibility, but a lower level of opacity, compared to LED projection technology. Depending on the amount of information that’s displayed in front of the user, this can transport the driver into a virtual reality experience. Instead of treating the display as a monitor or screen, the driver is able to see the structure of the road while also viewing digital elements simultaneously. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-31.jpeg] VEHICLE INTERCONNECTIVITY Did you know that more than half of consumers who use virtual or augmented reality programs also use the tech via their smartphones? Interconnectivity is becoming increasingly important for users of this revolutionary technology, and now AR-enabled vehicles can communicate with each other for greater road safety. Self-driving cars have used visual technology like cameras and radar to identify objects on the road, including other cars. While this allows the vehicle to gauge valuable information like object proximity and speed, traditional methods provide limited details about the vehicle. Using augmented reality, the vehicle can “see” the entire road, camera networks, other cars, and even changes in speed limit or road regulations. This higher level of spatial awareness provides a higher level of protection for pedestrians, other drivers, and other self-driving cars that are sharing the road. This technology has the potential to drastically reduce dangers and collisions for manual and self-driving vehicles. For those who are worried about the practicality of a TRUE auto-pilot function, this additional level of security will give drivers and passengers added peace of mind. More and more vehicles are becoming fully or partially autonomous as a result of higher AR/VR integration. As this grows in the automotive market, “drivers” will be able to improve defensive driving procedures that can drastically reduce vehicular collisions and casualties. IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCES FOR PASSENGERS AND SELF-DRIVING CAR USERS The concept of sitting in a fast-moving vehicle with a screen over your eyes is enough to put off anyone with motion sickness. Thanks to adaptive technology that incorporates the car’s movement with the VR content, even the most sensitive passengers can enjoy an immersive adventure during every car ride. Combining interesting storylines or impressive graphics with the directional motion of the vehicle, users can be transported to a fully virtual world. Even better, there aren’t any real-world distractions to impact the experience. Whether you’re looking for a way to entertain children on long car rides or you want to add some excitement to your auto-piloted commute, virtual reality is the answer consumers have been waiting for. Augmented reality and virtual reality systems are finding their way into a wide range of industries, but these innovative technologies are completely transforming the automotive market. As more manufacturers dive into this dynamic sphere, self-driving, electric, and standard-operation vehicles are using augmented reality and virtual reality trends to improve road safety, data security, and ease-of-use for drivers and passengers.
Should I Use My Trade-In As a Down Payment On A Lease?
September 11, 2020
Shopping for a new car can be a big headache. The car options are endless and the decision to buy or lease has many pros and cons. Leasing a car can be a great option over buying because you can often get a new car, drive it for a few years then get the option to buy it or turn it back in and leave a brand new car again. Leasing is an especially great option for car enthusiasts who like to try the latest models or like to upgrade every few years. When it comes to financing a new lease, it can be a toss up between trading in a current vehicle versus putting a down payment. Most people would probably prefer to do the trade-in, but there are some negatives to this option. Yet, sometimes a down payment on a lease also might not give you the best bang for your buck. Let’s look at the pros and cons of trade-ins as a down payment on a lease. CAR LEASING 101 Leasing a car might not be an option that a lot of people are familiar with. Sure, you’ve probably heard the option to lease but what does it actually entail? Leasing is a great way to drive brand new cars every few years without the commitment of purchasing. A lease monthly payment is also usually lower than buying with an auto loan. However, leasing a car does mean you have some driving limitations as you can only drive your vehicle for a fixed number of miles and months. During the time of your lease agreement, you will need to take good care of the car and follow all recommended services. The goal is to be able to return a car that the dealer can resell as used or preowned. If the car is over the mileage or has any damage, you likely will end up paying more at the end. You can also choose to purchase your car at the end of the contract and continue to pay off the residual debt. Essentially leasing a car is very similar to renting a home or apartment. You have a contracted amount of time you are paying. At the end of the day, you do not really own the vehicle so that at the end of the lease you can choose to find a new vehicle or purchase the leased vehicle. Keep in mind that some dealerships have a vehicle turn-in fee if you choose not to lease a new car from the dealer. Leasing a car often has three-year or four-year contracts, and your monthly payments will cover the depreciation of the car in that time. You will also have to pay finance charges and just like a purchase with a loan, the better your credit score, the better your interest rate. Often to lower a monthly lease payment, buyers might opt to put down a down payment or use their old vehicle for a trade-in. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-28.jpeg] TRADE IN Many buyers who opt for a lease might choose to use their current vehicle as a down payment for their lease. It can be an easy way to get rid of a car you no longer want and also be able to put some money down on your new vehicle. However, buyers should be aware of the pros and cons of this option. Pros: * Quick and Easy – Trading in your old vehicle and putting it towards your new lease means you are essentially selling your car to the dealership. The process begins with the car salesperson giving your car a test drive and then coming up with an appraisal value. This offer does not go to you as a direct cash payment. Instead, the value of the car will go towards the new car you are going to lease as a down payment on the vehicle. If you accept the offer, all you have to do is sign the car’s title over to the dealership. * A one stop shop – Another convenient part about doing a trade-in for a lease is that the process of trade-in and driving off with a new car typically is done in one transaction and one day. The dealer takes care of the process of the trade-in, securing a car loan if you need one, and the process of your new lease. This makes the car leasing process so much more seamless than taking care of each component yourself. However, make sure you are negotiating the best deal out of each process. Sometimes a dealership can be more costly than doing each process yourself. * Your existing loan gets paid off – When doing a trade-in, you can still trade-in a vehicle that you still owe money on. It’s quite common for dealers to take care of the old financing and will pay off the remaining loan balance on your trade-in and get the title directly from the lender. If you have any positive equity, it will be used as the down payment towards your new lease. This is often a common reason why buyers would opt for a trade-in for a new lease. If you know for sure that you have positive equity on your old vehicle, then using your trade-in as a down payment can be a very good way to get rid of your old vehicle and put some money down on your new vehicle. * Save on sales tax – Often your trade-in value will be subtracted from the new car’s price and thus you can receive a lower sales tax. For example, let’s say your new car will cost you about $35,000. The dealer offers you $15,000 for your trade in. The cost of your new car will then be $20,000. You do need to check your state’s sales tax laws, but this should mean that you will pay sales tax on the $20,000 instead of the overall value of $35,000. Cons: * You might not be getting the best deal – A trade-in with a dealer usually is only offering you the wholesale value of your old vehicle. You might be able to get more if you were to sell your car yourself to a private buyer. However, selling a vehicle yourself takes a lot more work and can take some significant time. * You could end up owing more – A trade-in option for a new lease can be a great way to transition into a new car. However, this might not be the best option if you owe more on the vehicle than it is worth. Negative equity can make the process a little more difficult and costly. You might need to have the money to pay off the remainder of your loan that the dealer’s trade-in value does not cover. If you do not have that amount, you do have the option of stacking that remainder of the loan on to your new lease. However, that can be a financial headache as you are essentially still paying for two cars but driving one. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-29.jpeg] PREPARING TO TRADE-IN Getting the best price from a trade-in means making sure you prepare your car just like you would when you sell it privately. Here are some things to prepare before you trade-in your vehicle: * Prep your paperwork – While you don’t need to have your car repaired to trade-in your car, it is a good idea to bring in any records that show any maintenance you had done while you owned it. This can help increase the amount in your trade-in offer. * Clean it up – While you do not have to clean out a vehicle before trading it in, it can help make your car appear more taken care of. You also want to clear out any information in the car’s technology such as a navigation system or bluetooth connection. * Know your car’s value – It is always best to know beforehand what the estimated value of your car is before going to the dealership and accept any offers. This will help you gauge whether or not you are receiving a fair deal. * Pay parking tickets – Parking tickets do not just go away when you sell your vehicle. In fact, unpaid parking tickets can prevent the title from being transferred. Make sure to take care of any outstanding tickets before even going to the dealership to help make the process go smoother. THE BOTTOM LINE Ultimately, doing a trade-in can be a great option to get rid of an old vehicle and drive off with a new vehicle all in the same day. Really it will depend on how much you still owe on your old vehicle and how well taken care of it is. A trade-in for a lease can help make the car buying process go by much smoother and easier. However, keep in mind that what you trade for convenience might mean you are not getting the best deal or value for your old vehicle. It is always best to also shop around for your new vehicle before even heading to the dealership. It is important to do your research on a vehicle before you even go to a dealership in person. A great way to inspect a car before even heading to a showroom is to visit a virtual showroom. Many dealerships are partnering with AI companies such as RelayCars to help buyers get a better shopping experience. You can view the exterior and interior of your potential new ride before even going to the dealership. You can closely inspect in-car features and even choose the colors you want. Shopping for a new car whether you are looking to lease or actually buy does take quite a bit of research and homework. You want to make sure you are getting the best deal for both your trade-in and your new lease.
Virtual Reality in Car Design at Ford: Joel Piaskowski Interview
September 9, 2020
While the Covid pandemic caused many businesses to shutter and implement work-from-home operations, the supply chains for many industries (including automotive) came to a halt as factories paused production to ensure workers’ safety. Globally, supply and demand for many nonessential goods decreased as consumers hunkered indoors abiding by shelter-in-place mandates and limiting excursions to only necessary trips. Yet, other divisions and departments within industries pushed forward. While factory work might have been limited—or completely shut down—for other employees, it was simply business as usual, albeit from a home office…and perhaps an infusion of new technology. Ford’s Joel Piaskowski spoke with Automobile Magazine about how the company utilized virtual reality as designers worked from home to create new models. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-25.jpeg] VIRTUAL MODELING IN 3D Traditional automobile models are often rendered in clay, but Covid’s work-from-home office structure required that team leaders have a more integrated approach to design. Clay models could only be viewed via conference calls in 2D; however, a three-dimensional approach is necessary for directors to appropriately visualize and understand a concept model. With clay models momentarily crushed as an option, design teams had to utilize other ways to create and conceptualize these models. The solution for Ford was virtual reality. Piaskowski told the magazine that several company leaders/directors utilized virtual reality to preview designs for models. Meanwhile, designers were working from home via their company computers/software and creating the concepts that took life via virtual reality. VIEWING MODELS IN VIRTUAL REALITY For Ford, modeling in VR integrated some familiar backdrops. Piaskowski said in the interview that they had a 360-degree photo of a company courtyard that they used to display their virtual models. Avatars of directors also could swap into others’ positions within the VR landscape (to gain a different perspective), and Piaskowski also said in the interview that he could utilize a laser pointer in VR to draw attention to certain aspects of a model. All of these capabilities emphasize how technology has been embraced during the pandemic to continue normal business operations. Still, clay will continue to be necessary. Piaskowski stated in the interview: “Once it gets down to final sign off, it seems like clay is never going to go away…” However, when this element couldn’t be used in the earlier phases of the design layout, VR has been a convenient resource to ensure that the design aspect of the industry doesn’t come to a complete standstill. BEFORE THE PANDEMIC VIRTUAL REALITY WAS A RISING TECHNOLOGY Virtual reality in automotive design is a pivot that many other manufacturers have utilized…even before Covid forced many manufacturers to pivot to a virtual workspace. Grid Raster, which works with the automotive, aerospace and defense and technology manufacturers, conducted a survey to understand how companies are using VR “for greater production efficiencies and savings.” The survey gleaned more than 200 responses “from C-level and technology executives of mid-level and enterprise-level organizations”). The survey was conducted in late March of 2020, right around the time Covid shelter-in-place mandates began across the country. More than half of those who participated in the survey said that the company used VR/AR in design. More than a quarter noted that it was used for training employees, and more than half implemented VR for customer service (i.e. virtual visits). In a press release about the survey, Dijam Panigrahi, Grid Raster’s co-founder and Chief Operations Officer, noted that the Covid pandemic was likely to further boost the use of VR: “The recent COVID-19 pandemic may push this number further, especially as companies of all sizes look to implement more virtual design into their workflows to minimize human interaction on the production floor,” said Panigrahi in the press release. “It is encouraging that these companies are realizing the benefits that AR/VR offers, but scalability offers great challenges in many cases.” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-26.jpeg] COVID’S IMPACT ON THE RISE OF VR IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY While Ford immersed its design efforts into a virtual world, the automotive industry also was forced to do a virtual pivot in other sectors as Covid’s devastating economic wave swamped the retail and manufacturing industries. Consumers were no longer visiting dealership lots to test drive new automobiles or preview new models in showrooms. As the shelter-in-place mandates took hold, many left their homes only for the essentials. And when cities slowly reopened, sanitizing and social distancing also meant limitations to the shopping experience. In response, car shopping went virtual. Dealerships offered those on the hunt for a new car a shopping experience powered by virtual reality technology. Some offered shoppers an online virtual test drive, while other apps let individuals schedule in-person test drives. Business Insider reported that dealerships also were bringing cars to individuals at home for a scheduled test drive. Virtual showrooms popped up online and provided shoppers with a unique glimpse of the dealership inventory. Companies like Relay Cars offered virtual showrooms that allowed shoppers to view the interior and exterior of different makes/models and even change paint hues. Convenience was a key factor in these virtual options. When consumers felt uncomfortable leaving home to shop, the experience had to alter to meet these needs. Of course, the pandemic forced the hand of many industries, too, concerning virtual options. Survival meant evolving to the unique climate and to the changing demands of the buyer. Dealerships had to abide by the state and local mandates related to Covid restrictions, but they also had to find a way to stay afloat. Virtual reality was safe, convenient and allowed for business to continue. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-27.jpeg] DESIGN, CONVENIENCE AND THE FUTURE OF VR AFTER COVID Ford continued to design models in virtual reality during Covid, dealerships opted for VR tours and showrooms and buyers went online to shop for a new car. But will these trends continue post-pandemic? No one in the industry can predict what will or won’t happen with absolute certainty. However, Ford and other manufacturers utilized virtual reality before the pandemic. This trend will likely continue after the pandemic subsides. While Piaskowski noted that clay will remain necessary in the design phase, the use of VR allows directors a chance to explore new models in a different realm. Virtual reality enables a different three-dimensional view, and while, unlike clay, it isn’t a tangible material, VR does offer another form of exploration. Directors and leadership can step inside a virtual space and point to design flaws or explore different vantage points of a design. Models can be rotated and viewed in a familiar setting. When the world seemingly stopped, VR technology allowed business to continue. Designs that could have been abruptly halted had Covid hit 20 years ago could continue to be explored and revised. Designers could tweak elements, and leadership teams could counsel and discuss options to improve models. Virtual reality also will likely continue to have a firm footing on the automotive shopping experience, too. For the past several months, consumers have shifted to a new way of shopping and making purchases. While online shopping was already a leading force in the retail world, Covid forced many businesses to pivot to this virtual experience. Now consumers find that they can easily visit a dealership online and view different cars remotely. Before Covid, shopping for a car meant visiting a dealership, walking through the lot to inspect different models and then taking a test drive. Sometimes consumers may have felt pressure to make their decision promptly or maybe simply didn’t like the experience of the in-person car buying experience. With the onset of virtual reality for showrooms and test drives, the power shifted more to the consumer. Suddenly, shopping for a car could be relaxed. Looking through the inventory could be a leisurely experience done while having lunch or sitting in bed at night. Test drives could be scheduled online or via an app, and the model for that test drive could be delivered to the consumer. Even financing could be approved online. After Covid, many consumers may continue to shop virtually—even for bigger purchases like an automobile. The ease of clicking a vehicle, changing a paint hue and scheduling a virtual test drive may appeal to those who simply don’t have the time to visit a dealership. However, other consumers may have hesitated to explore the online shopping experience for an automobile. While dealerships moved to online experiences during Covid, some consumers might not have felt comfortable with a virtual experience. For these consumers, there may always be a preference for in-person shopping. The impact of Covid, however, may have forever altered the automotive world and paved the way for further virtual upgrades. The rise of VR may impact other areas of the industry in ways no one can predict. VR has already been utilized for safety tests. In addition, Porsche’s “Tech Live Look” incorporates virtual reality to help technicians with repairs. In the future, the automotive industry may see slick new test drive experiences where consumers can experience new models in a road environment of their choice. In fact, BMW already offered a virtual test drive on Mars! Virtual reality could be used in programs that actually take consumers into the showroom with a virtual salesperson. The future that many are awaiting, though, is the self-driving car—a vehicle powered by virtual reality. No one can accurately predict where the future will drive us, but virtual reality may likely hold the keys and take over the driver’s seat.
4 Ways Augmented Reality Will Transform the Automotive Industry
September 7, 2020
The automotive industry is fiercely competitive, which is why companies often embrace new technologies in order to set themselves apart from their competitors. One of the technologies that is expected to make a major impact in the automotive industry is augmented reality. Augmented reality technology allows you to superimpose digital elements, such as text, images, and sounds, into your real world environment. For example, the widely popular gaming app, Pokemon Go, used augmented reality technology to superimpose interactive images of Pokemon characters into the gamer’s real world. But augmented reality isn’t just for gamers. In fact, a number of automotive manufacturers, including BMW, Jaguar, and Mazda, have already started to integrate this technology into their vehicles. The use of augmented reality in the automotive industry is still fairly new, but it’s expected to continue to grow in popularity over the next several years. When it does, here are four of the many ways that this innovative technology will completely transform the automotive industry: [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-21.jpeg] AUGMENTED REALITY ADVERTISING In the 1970s, the average consumer encountered about 500 advertisements per day. But that number has grown exponentially since then. Now, it’s estimated that the average consumer sees over 5,000 advertisements on a daily basis. This massive number could climb even higher thanks to the integration of augmented reality in the automotive industry. Many experts predict that brands will begin to spend a significant chunk of their marketing budget on augmented advertising within vehicles. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-22.jpeg] How will it work? Imagine driving down the street and seeing advertisements pop up on your windshield. As you pass the mall, an ad promoting a sale at one of the department stores appears in the corner of your windshield. As you pass the movie theater, an ad appears that lists the showtimes for a newly released action movie. Then, as you drive by a pedestrian on the street, an ad appears for the brand of shoes he was wearing. These are some examples of how brands could partner with the automotive industry to use augmented reality to deliver location-based ads to you while you sit behind the wheel. No automotive companies have begun to incorporate augmented reality advertising into their vehicles like this quite yet. However, several automotive manufacturers have used augmented reality advertising to promote their vehicles. For example, Land Rover relied on augmented reality technology to promote the launch of the New Discovery Sport in 2015. Before the vehicle was available to view in showrooms, the company used augmented reality to allow consumers to explore a virtual model. Consumers could walk around the entire virtual vehicle to examine its exterior from every angle. As they moved around the vehicle, animations would appear to highlight certain features. The driver’s door of the virtual vehicle even opened to give consumers a peek at the interior of the new model. Using augmented reality in this manner allowed Land Rover to create buzz and excitement leading up to the official release of the New Discovery Sport. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-23.jpeg] ASSISTED PARKING Nearly every driver has struggled to squeeze their vehicle into a parking spot at some point. This is a common issue that many drivers face on the road, especially when attempting to parallel park or navigate in a poorly lit parking garage. For years, automotive manufacturers have used augmented reality technology to make parking easier for drivers. In fact, this is one of the most common uses of augmented reality in the automotive industry today. Countless vehicles are currently designed with front and/or rear view cameras that allow drivers to see a live feed of what’s in front of and behind them while they try to park their car. Augmented reality is used to superimpose lines, arrows, and other images onto this live video feed to help the driver see where they are headed and safely park their vehicle. Some automotive manufacturers, including BMW, also use augmented reality to project virtual images of the vehicle into the parking space that the driver is trying to back up into. This shows the driver whether or not their vehicle will safely fit within the lines of the parking space. This way, they will know whether or not they need to give up and try to find a new spot. But in the future, automotive manufacturers will use augmented reality technology to provide drivers with even more parking assistance. Experts predict that automotive manufacturers will use augmented reality to help drivers find parking spots in crowded parking garages, parking lots, and streets. How will it work? As you travel through a parking lot, for example, a small notification may pop up on your windshield to let you know you are approaching an empty parking spot to your right. This pop-up notification may also tell you how much it costs to park in that spot, how many hours you are allowed to park there, and other relevant information. These features would make parking easier, more convenient, and safer for all drivers. ENHANCED SAFETY FEATURES Automotive manufacturers constantly look for new and innovative safety features they can incorporate into the designs of their vehicles. Now, many automotive manufacturers may rely on augmented reality technology to make the driving experience safer than ever before. PSA Groupe, which owns several different automotive brands including Peugeot and Vauxhall, has already started to integrate this technology into its vehicles to keep drivers safe. Many of PSA Groupe’s vehicles use augmented reality to provide drivers with lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, obstacle warning, and pedestrian detection. For example, these vehicles are designed to scan the surrounding environment to identify any pedestrians that the driver is approaching. If a pedestrian is detected, a warning sign and red lines will appear around the person to alert the driver of their presence. These vehicles also use augmented reality to provide adaptive cruise control to drivers. Say you choose to set your cruise control to 70mph. The vehicle will maintain this speed as long as it is safe to do so. But if another car cuts in front of you on the road, the vehicle will automatically lower the speed to ensure you don’t collide with the vehicle. Where does augmented reality come in? As your vehicle adjusts its speed, graphics will be projected onto the windshield to highlight the vehicle that cut in front of you so you understand why you started to slow down. These are several examples of how augmented reality is already being used to enhance vehicles safety features. But it is predicted that in the future, automotive manufacturers will continue to use this technology to bring new and exciting safety features to vehicles. Experts believe that future vehicles may use augmented reality to tell drivers how close they are to other vehicles around them, warn them of bad weather that is quickly approaching, and provide other relevant information. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-24.jpeg] INTERACTIVE NAVIGATION Many drivers use their smartphones to look up driving directions. This is a great way to get detailed, accurate directions to your final destination. But looking down at your phone every few minutes while behind the wheel is not safe. To solve this problem, some automotive manufacturers have started to use augmented reality technology to provide interactive navigation assistance to drivers. The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE is one of the first vehicles to be designed with interactive navigation features supported by augmented reality technology. The touchscreen within the vehicle’s infotainment center shows you a live feed of the road in front of you, which is recorded using a camera built into the windshield. Using augmented reality technology, navigational graphics such as arrows and speed limit signs are superimposed onto the live video feed. Traffic information, such as upcoming road blocks or accidents, is also superimposed onto the live video. Experts believe that automotive manufacturers will continue to use augmented reality technology to enhance navigation features found in vehicles. For instance, some experts predict that navigational directions will be projected right onto the windshield rather than the infotainment center’s touch screen. This way, the navigational graphics and traffic information can be superimposed directly onto the driver’s real world environment rather than onto a live video feed. If this prediction is right, drivers will no longer need to look down at their smartphones or take their eyes off of the road to look at their infotainment center’s screen. Instead, the directions they need to get to their final destination will be visible directly on their windshield. Navigational graphics will be projected onto the road to provide instructions on where to turn, when to switch lanes, when to merge, and more. Based on these predictions, there’s no doubt that augmented reality will completely transform both the way vehicles are designed and the driving experience for consumers.
3 Trends Changing the Auto Industry – A Shift to Dealer Digitization
September 4, 2020
According to customer THINK “research shows that 76% of companies are investing in emerging technology”. Of these emerging technologies, virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence are driving significant changes. These changes weren’t all positive for all sectors, but the auto industry is one that has remained mostly stable and even experienced increased demand in some areas since the outbreak. Because of concerns over COVID19 transmissions, people started to feel less comfortable using public transport. The desire to stay separate from others and protect family members for exposure led to an increase in demand for personal transportation. Consumers are no longer only doing research online, but also committing to major purchases without seeing the items in person. Much of this is due to the information (reviews) available, flexible return policies, videos, and Virtual Reality. Combined, these allow shoppers to feel comfortable committing to large purchases, such as buying cars online, without the need to visit the shop or dealer in person. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-18.jpeg] COVID19 AND CAR SALES While there have certainly been dips in the demand for cars, particularly in areas or countries under lockdown, as things reopen there is an increased desire to have both freedoms of travel and personal transport. COVID19 has meant that many people feel cautious and concerned about the idea of sharing confined and air conditioned spaces with people that they don’t know. Public transport has also become less convenient in many areas, some with restrictions, shielding, face mask requirements, and more. All of this has led to people wanting their own vehicles, to be able to travel freely and comfortably. A report from Cars.com stated that “the pandemic is causing nearly 20% of the respondents to consider buying one”. They also reported that: “More than 40% of respondents to a Cars.com survey said they’re using ride-sharing services less often since the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. Of these people, 93% said they’re using their personal cars more often.” CUSTOMERS ARE AVOIDING UNNECESSARY TRAVEL AND SALES STAFF This is not a new trend. Consumers are simply demanding a more convenient and pleasant purchasing experience. They do not want to be harassed by sales staff and don’t want to travel to several locations in order to find what they want to buy. Even those that like to shop in person will often do a lot of online research first. They’ll want to narrow down their selection to just 2-3 possibilities before making a trip out to buy. This means that even high-street retailers need to make sure their products, offers, and service are clearly visible online to their target consumers. Instead of simply finding the nearest dealers, consumers are looking for convenience. In the case of dealerships, some ways that this is being provided include: VR showrooms VR test drives Reviews (written and video) [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-19.jpeg] The virtual reality showroom is gaining popularity, as it can allow customers to see available cars in realistic ways, even being able to select different trims or configurations. Virtual reality or augmented reality apps for car sales don’t necessarily need a headset either. Many can simply be viewed through a mobile phone screen. If you do have a headset, then the experience is almost as realistic as actually being at the showroom. CUSTOMERS ARE DEMANDING ONLINE CONVENIENCE AND PERSONALIZATION FROM RETAILERS A lot of shoppers actually don’t want to go to a store or dealership. They want to proceed through the entire process, from research to purchase, entirely online. This is providing new challenges and new benefits to dealers. As shoppers become more accepting and trusting of online purchasing, other aspects of how dealerships operate are also changing. Think with Google reported “dealers before COVID-19 have been able to offer vehicle delivery, [but] only a very small number have the online capabilities to execute a full vehicle sale online”. Tesla, for example, currently has the facility for shoppers to purchase cars entirely online. They even allow a few days after delivery as a ‘test drive’ period from your home. If the buyer doesn’t like the vehicle they purchase, so long as they are within the terms, they can then return it to Tesla. They also allow for test drive bookings and contactless test drives (removing COVID fears). Modern buyers want to be able to complete most, if not all, of the process from the comfort of their homes. This is resulting in significant changes to how dealers operate, both online and offline. HOW DEALERS ARE DIGITIZING BUSINESS – ONLINE AND OFFLINE As dealers move towards more digitization, things are changing quite rapidly. There is a need to provide convenience, and more often than not, this means entirely online experiences. As some people like to research heavily and then check things out in person, one-way dealerships are providing more convenience to clients by allowing customers to make an “at-home test drive” booking online. The dealer then delivers the car for testing right to the customers door, which is far more convenient, especially for those with busy schedules. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-20.jpeg] As virtual reality and augmented reality catch on more and more, dealers are able to provide virtual experiences of cars in showrooms, online, and via installable apps. It can mean that dealers don’t need as many display or test drive models, as customers can be shown all cars and trims virtually. Some even provide virtual test drives, providing a realist experience of the chosen car. This combined with digital configurations means that all colors, trims, and accessories can be demonstrated virtually. Customers can literally create their ideal combination of features, view it in virtual reality, and then test drive it virtually or from a home test drive booking.
Startup AI Companies Stirring Up Business With Self-Driving Cars
September 2, 2020
Artificial Intelligence (AI) was not always a term associated with driving. Yet, today, it is an integral part of innovation in the automobile industry. More and more big-name auto companies are looking for startups that have the tools and creative ideas to help enhance their vehicles’ driving experience. The autonomous vehicle market is especially benefiting from the advancements made in AI. Auto companies are partnering with startup AI companies to make self-driving cars more accessible in the future. Major automakers are investing billions in these startups to be the top self-driving manufacturers in the field. PARTNERSHIP WITH AUTOMAKERS AND ARGO AI WORTH BILLIONS Two major automobile companies investing in AI are Ford and Volkswagen. Both companies have invested billions into autonomous vehicle technology startup Argo AI. Because of these major investors, Argo is now valued at $7.5 billion. Ford and Volkswagen take equal ownership stakes with Argo’s board of two VW seats, two Ford seats, and three Argo seats. Ford’s initial investment of $1 billion helped to bring the startup company into the forefront of the autonomous vehicle industry. The investment was a surprise as the company was only a few months old, but its founders are established leaders in the industry. Bryan Salesky was director of hardware development at the Google self-driving project and Peter Rander was the engineering lead at Uber Advanced Technologies Group. Since Ford’s investment, Argo worked on Ford’s self-driving vehicles to develop their virtual driver system. Now with Volkswagen’s investment, Argo will also be sharing and extending those developments to VW vehicles. The VW investment also opens up the European market and industry to Argo. Argo AI will be absorbing VW’s self-driving subsidiary Autonomous Intelligent Driving (AID). AID’s Munich offices will now become Argo’s European headquarters and its total workforce will now include over 1,000 employees worldwide. The support and investments from the two auto companies have made Argo a leader in the autonomous vehicle industry, and also puts Ford and Volkswagen at the top of the race in the self-driving auto business. However, this is not the only AI startup and automobile company partnership that is working to bring self-driving vehicles to the streets. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-16.jpeg] WHICH AUTOMOTIVE COMPANIES ARE PARTNERING WITH STARTUPS? Autonomous vehicles are still a long way from being a common sight on neighborhood streets, but partnerships between tech startups and established automobile companies are bringing that vision closer and closer. Making vehicles is already a complex process and system, but incorporating AI technology is making the process even more difficult for automakers to tackle the project alone. With the exception of Tesla, few tech companies venture into manufacturing their own vehicles. Instead, many major automakers are partnering with tech companies to incorporate their systems into their vehicles or work on creating their own self-driving systems. Some partnerships include: * Hyundai and Aptiv * Jaguar and Waymo * General Motors and Cruise * Fiat-Chrysler and Voyage These partnerships help to create more cohesive vehicles as automakers can focus on the actual manufacturing of vehicles, while startups can focus on the software and computing systems within the vehicle. This helps both companies to focus on their strengths rather than having to integrate another sector into their companies. Self-driving cars are now the focus in incorporating AI to vehicles, especially as demand continues to rise for such vehicles. The demand for self-driving vehicles has increased as in-car safety features have become a primary concern for buyers. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-17.jpeg] WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES? Although some automobile companies such as Tesla have already incorporated self-driving features into their cars, the ability for a fully autonomous vehicle has still not entered the commercial market. It will take some time, but self-driving cars will completely revolutionize the way we drive and our streets. The potential of self-driving cars is clearly driving the demand for these autonomous vehicles. Here are five ways self-driving cars will improve our driving: * Safer roads – Buyers today are putting in-car safety features as a priority when they are shopping for a vehicle. They are often shopping for features that can help reduce and avoid potential car accidents. Many car accidents are caused by miscalculations, texting, phone usage, drunk driving, and speeding. Data shows that about 94 percent of serious crashes are because of human error. Fully autonomous vehicles can completely eliminate the factor of human error. They can make for more precise driving and will enhance the safety of not just drivers, but also passengers and pedestrians. * Easier daily commutes – Daily traffic is often also caused because of human errors such as car accidents or not sticking to the speed limit. However, with fully autonomous vehicles, commutes could be reduced since accidents will likely reduce. Self-driving cars will also be programmed to follow traffic rules and regulations thus making our roads much more streamlined. A self-driving car also means more time for the drive to be productive. Instead of doing the actual operations of the car, a driver can mostly sit back and do something else during their daily commute. * Reduce emissions and fuel consumption – With self-driving vehicles, driving will reduce emissions and fuel consumption because of much more streamlined and orderly driving. With reduced traffic and more regulated speeds, vehicles will not have to use up as much fuel while on the road. Experts also predict that along with the demand for self-driving cars will come the demand for more electronic and eco-friendly vehicles. * Ease parking frustrations – Making parking easier is also a hopeful benefit of self-driving cars. In congested parking situations, self-driving cars can simply drop off passengers then move on and this can be especially helpful if there is an increase in automated ride-sharing or taxi vehicles. Many vehicles today already utilize a form of self-driving in this way. Some cars have self-parking features that parallel park for you or prevent you from hitting something when you are attempting to park. AI features such as measuring parking spaces and alignment are already common in commercial vehicles. * Increased mobility for those who can’t drive – Self-driving vehicles also have the potential to help those who would be immobile such as the disabled or elderly. Those who are not able to operate a car can simply use a self-driving vehicle as transportation. * Reduce emergency response time – Self-driving vehicles potentially can help reduce emergency response time which can save many lives. Some startup companies are also looking to incorporate a vehicle emergency response where the car will locate and drive to the nearest hospital if the driver suffers from a heart attack or other emergency while driving. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF AI IN THE AUTO INDUSTRY IN THE FUTURE? The potential benefits of self-driving cars are the reason why so many major automobile companies are investing billions into AI technology. However, this is just one way AI is being incorporated into the auto industry. AI is creating innovation and advancing technology in vehicles like never before. AI’s role in the automotive industry will change not just how we drive but also how vehicles are manufactured and sold. Today, much of the process in manufacturing vehicles still relies on manual labor. However, with more advancements in artificial intelligence, manufacturing and creating vehicles will become quicker, easier, and safer. Tesla is already working on systems that will help with streamlining the manufacturing process even more and make advancements in quality control. The AI program can check that assembly parts are put together correctly. AI is significantly changing the way buyers are shopping for cars. Traditionally, shopping for a car meant going to a dealership and going in blind. There was no other way to really see the interior of a car before going to the dealership. Now, prospective buyers can shop from the comfort of their own home and also see all the features in a vehicle. AI companies such as RelayCars are recreating the car shopping experience virtually. RelayCars allows shoppers to view any car they are interested in purchasing. They are able to view both the exterior and interior of the vehicle virtually. They are able to view the vehicle in various colors and see the vehicle from various angles. The interior view allows the shopper to view the vehicle as if they are actually sitting in the vehicle. They can view all the features of a car without even having to step into a showroom. This can help buyers make more thoughtful and informed decisions before going to the dealership so that by the time they do visit one they are ready to make a purchase. Virtual showrooms can be a great tool for dealerships and can help to increase sales since buyers are likely to be more committed to buying a vehicle before they even come in. AUTOMOTIVE AND STARTUP PARTNERSHIPS BRING INNOVATION AND PROFITS Startup AI companies partnering with major automakers are bridging the tech world with the automotive world. AI is the present and future of the automotive industry. AI companies like RelayCars are bringing innovation and advancements that can bring both consumers and automakers many benefits. The race to create commercial self-driving vehicles is relying heavily on the tech that these startups are developing. This is creating an industry worth billions where startup AI companies can gain capital and automakers can get ahead in the competition for safe self-driving cars.
Augmented Reality in Automotive Safety Features to Drive the Future
August 31, 2020
Augmented reality is jumping into the driver’s seat and positioned to dominate the auto industry. Currently, virtual reality is used to showcase vehicle features in e-showrooms throughout the internet, and the technology allows consumers to take virtual test drives of new cars. Augmented reality safety features will be the future of the automotive industry, with new makes/models displaying smart capabilities that detect potential threats to keep drivers safer on the road…and in parking lots, too. The concept of virtual or augmented reality is understood by many to be a world or space that is separate from reality and our world. While this definition is true as it relates to virtual showrooms (to view cars) or virtual test drives, not all VR is inherently unreal. SAFETY FEATURES THAT ALREADY INTEGRATE AUGMENTED REALITY Augmented reality’s future in the automotive industry is becoming more prominent; in fact, AR is already in many of our cars—whether we realize it or not. Here are some of the common safety features in current automobiles that already integrate augmented reality. AUTOMATIC STOP Today’s new makes/models may feature automatic stop capabilities when a threat (like a person, animal or other car) is detected while the car is in reverse. This feature is a form of virtual reality. The car is programmed to automatically react to the threat of a presence. The result is fewer accidents and injuries. The car, however, and its virtual intelligence is in charge…not the human behind the wheel. SPEED LIMIT SENSORS Yes, all cars have the ability to track your speed; speedometers are nothing new. What is new are speed sensors that actually pick up the speed limit in every area you are driving. Changing speed limits are not uncommon, especially as drivers pass into new cities or municipalities. Speed limit sensors will notify drivers of the speed limit in that area, and this feature ensures that, hopefully, drivers slow down to obey the changing speed regulations. LANE GUIDANCE Some cars have integrated lane guidance capabilities into their safety features. This allows drivers to understand their lane navigation. This feature may be even more beneficial during night driving, when lane visibility may be more limited. SMART REAR VIEW MIRRORS Night driving also can be difficult because visibility through the rearview mirror may be poor. New vehicles now include ‘smart’ rearview mirrors that are programmed to access the back-up camera; this feature provides drivers with a clear view of the road (and automobiles) behind them. REAR AND FRONT CAMERAS Accidents can happen on the road or in the parking lot (pulling in too close to a post). AR technology now can limit the potential for little (or big) fender benders and accidents nearly everywhere. Cameras located around the car are connected to sensors throughout the body of the vehicle. When a threat is detected that could result in an accident, the car will beep or, in the case of a vehicle programmed to do so, stop completely. Screens within the dashboard also allow drivers to visualize their turning radius and see all areas of their surrounding environment, further limiting the potential for an accident. SMART DISPLAYS In most modern vehicles, a smart display is a standard feature. This, too, is yet another form of automotive safety AR. The display alerts drivers of their mileage, fuel levels, oil life, tire pressure and any other safety issue that could affect the car or the driving experience. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-14.jpeg] THE FUTURE OF AUGMENTED REALITY SAFETY FEATURES Augmented reality is integrated into many modern vehicles, but there is much potential for growth for this technology sector. Here is a look at what the future may hold for augmented reality in the automotive industry: NISSAN’S INVISIBLE-TO-VISIBLE TECHNOLOGY Nissan addresses the future of augmented reality safety features and the new advances on the horizon for the automotive industry.So what’s next in augmented reality? Nissan discusses invisible-to-visible technology, which is a form of AR “that merges the real world and virtual world to make information visible which the driver would not otherwise see.” This new technology allows for drivers to see what is around the corner and “potential hazards around a building….” Drivers could see someone behind a building and anticipate that the individual may cross their path. Or perhaps there is another car or some other potential threat. Nissan’s new tech gets even cooler and more space age, though. The augmented reality lets family and friends join a ride virtually. Yes, their avatars can appear in the car like real (or unreal) passengers. This may give a lonely driver some sense of companionship, letting them drive more relaxed and engage in conversation during the drive. AR TO TEST SAFETY FEATURES Augmented reality isn’t just found in the vehicles; manufacturers also are using this technology to test safety features, too. Volvo and Varjo (a company that makes VR headsets) partnered to create the first “mixed reality headset” used to drive a car—the Varjo XR-1 headset. This headset will be used to help engineers “to develop and evaluate active safety solutions more easily.” Safety experts then wear the headsets “…testing virtual active safety systems imposed via augmented reality on the real-life environment.” AR TO HELP TECHNICIANS MAKE REPAIRS Porsche has utilized augmented reality to help technicians make repairs. The technology called “Tech Live Look” partners smart glasses with a software platform that aids service technicians in repairs. The glasses include an LED light to shine a light on tough to see spaces and magnify areas that require finer details (like small screws). Porsche rolled out the technology in 2018. APPLE’S AUGMENTED REALITY WINDSHIELD Automotive manufacturers aren’t the only players embracing AR. Apple is getting in on the AR action, too, and filed a patent for an augmented reality windshield. The windshield may integrate Apple’s own technology like FaceTime and iPhone capabilities. With the prevalence of video calls during Covid, the patent paves the way for in-car video conferencing. In an article for Future Car, it was noted that the author of the patent indicated (within the patent explanation) that the windshield “…could facilitate video calls and other forms of communication while waiting to reach one’s destination.” If the patent allows for an iPhone to connect to the windshield, this also could provide drivers with a larger map view when using the phone’s GPS features. BMW’S AUGMENTED REALITY APP In 2017, BMW introduced its augmented reality app that lets consumers explore its cars via a phone or other device. The app let potential buyers explore all points of the car. Change the color, swap out the wheel rims, or pop open the trunk. The app was a fully immersive experience and helped car buyers check out different models from the manufacturer. While the app itself wasn’t related to safety features, there is the potential for manufacturers to create an app that allows consumers to explore the vehicle’s safety components. As car buying becomes a more virtual experience, these apps will need to evolve to include technological components that allow consumers to explore all features—including those that ensure safety. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-15.jpeg] SELF-DRIVING CARS The VR-operated self-driving car is perhaps the future of the industry and the future of automotive safety. These cars will require no one to sit in the driver’s seat, will navigate autonomously and may provide the most comprehensive safety features. When the computer is in the driver’s seat, this means that cameras and sensors will be required throughout the car to minimize the risk of an accident. The very idea, though, of not sitting in the driver’s seat and letting a computer take over the vehicle might make some feel uneasy. There is, after all, so much room for technological error. However, for these vehicles to truly take over the industry, safety must be the highest priority. For this reason, these cars of the future will likely feature safety features and driving capabilities beyond our imagination. When we think about the driving experience, every decision is vital to safety. The driver must know how soon to signal a turn, when to safely pass, how fast to accelerate, when to slow down for traffic, etc. Then there are the intricacies of parking; understanding the turning radius and the proximity of other vehicles is vital. A self-driving car must encompass complete technological intellect and bypass any instance of perceived human error. The reaction of the car must be immediate in every single driving situation. One wrong blip of a program could cause an accident. Perfection, it seems, will be the only way self-driving cars will take control on the road. Eventually, the intricacies of their programming will be perfect, and the future of driving may be that only the cars navigate the roads…and humans remain in the passenger seat. The implication for our daily lives would be huge; commuting could allow us to work from the car (instead of navigating it). The driving experience could be more relaxed and leave us less stressed. Parents will no longer have to threaten to turn the car around, because screaming kids won’t be affecting attention to the road. The future of augmented reality in the automotive industry is far-reaching. Many manufacturers have already introduced augmented reality into their practices and integrated the technology into the vehicles. AR is used to help mechanics make repairs (in the case of Porsche), and has helped Volvo test out safety features. Apple may soon integrate smart windshields that allow video conferencing while commuting. However, the real future—the impending future—of AR is the self-driving car. When this car is perfected, it will offer maximum safety for passengers…but it will also force humans to relinquish the driver’s seat. Are we ready for a road of computer-operated cars? The future may decide this for us! Augmented Reality in Automotive [https://contentgm.s3.us-west-2.amazonaws.com/content_uploads/App%5CDynamicModules%5CItem/48583/Ar-Safety.png]
Hearable Tech Trends Amplify the Future of Sound
August 30, 2020
Hearing aids and auditory devices once were extremely cumbersome; the earliest hearing aids were large trumpet-like instruments that one held into the ear, but these devices eventually became more manageable, as hearing devices were developed that fit into the ear canal. These models weren’t discreet, and their auditory amplification also was neither ideal nor perfect. However, the hearing aid eventually evolved into the behind-the-ear model we recognize today. Today’s hearing aids feature cutting edge technology that can seemingly disappear behind the ear and even tap into smartphones and other devices. Hearable tech trends amplify the future of hearing aids and will help erase the stigma faced by those who are diagnosed with hearing loss. Unfortunately, earlier hearing aid models—even those a few decades ago—weren’t so visually appealing, and their appearance likely contributed to the stigma faced by those who experienced hearing loss, especially children. Older adults, however, may still equate a hearing impairment to a fragility of old age and view hearing aids as an inherent and outward social weakness. HEARING AIDS FOR CHILDREN: EN VOGUE & A NEW MOLD For children, the visual aspect of hearing aids may be associated with an aversion to wear them. Many kids want to fit into their peer group, and any difference—even slight—may cause a child to feel stigmatized or ostracized. Pediatric hearing aids come in several designs: behind-the-ear (BTE) models, canal aids (fit in the ear canal), in the ear aids (these tuck in the ear) and body hearing aids (for “profound hearing loss”). An audiologist may recommend a certain design or model that would work best for the child. Hearing loss isn’t the same for every individual; some children may be born with hearing loss and the extent may be severe, but others may suffer mild hearing loss or experience hearing loss from medication. Hearing loss also may involve only sounds on a range of frequencies (perhaps high frequency). The hearing aid must be able to meet the auditory needs of the child. Today’s hearing aids for kids, however, partner advanced technology with a streamlined appearance. While hearing aids of the past had to be manually adjusted, today’s models are plugged into a computer and adjusted digitally by a technician. The sound quality also has greatly improved. The appearance also can be controlled by kids. Like glasses, in-canal and BTE hearing aids now come in a variety of colors. When children visit an audiologist for hearing aids, they often can choose from a rainbow of hues for the actual hearing aid. For BTE models, kids also can choose a favorite hue for the hearing aid hook. Even the ear molds (for BTE) can be customized. Kids can swirl together up to three different colors to create an ear mold that fits their style…and matches their personality. Color combos can be bold and neon, pastel or even clear and conservative. Since children’s ears grow as they do, they can change their molds and their mold designs frequently. Charms also can be added to decorate hearing aids. The sound quality of pediatric hearing aids, though, is what has evolved the most throughout the years. Many models connect wirelessly and are compatible with Apple and Android smartphones. These tech-savvy hearing devices can be used to listen to music or television shows by bringing the audio into the hearing aid; teens also can stream phone calls into their hearing aids! ASSISTED TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM & BEYOND As hearing aid technology has advanced, so, too, has assisted technology for these devices. FM systems are used by kids and adults to assist in hearing lectures, church services, class lessons and other activities. FM systems work by utilizing a microphone (provided to the speaker) to bring their voice directly into the hearing aid. This bypasses the issue of background noise, which can distract the listener’s attention. While hearing aids have advanced both in their design and their auditory capabilities, when frequencies are adjusted and amplified by the aids to increase hearing, other sounds may be amplified as well. A hearing impaired child sitting in a classroom may hear their teacher but become distracted by the amplified sounds of rustling paper, whispering or other background noises. Utilizing an FM system allows the child (or adult) to clearly hear the voice—and the pertinent information—over all the noise. Even FM systems have become incredibly tech savvy. Some now include touch-screen receivers. Other tools, like Phonak’s Roger Pen microphone also connect into a specific hearing aid model. The microphone works a bit like an FM, bringing a speaker’s voice directly into the hearing device. Users also can connect the microphone to a television or other entertainment device. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-11.jpeg] HEARING AIDS FOR ADULTS Many manufacturers design models that can be used by both children and adults (although size and colors may differ). Like children, adult hearing loss isn’t the same for every individual. Depending on the amount of hearing loss, an audiologist may have a specific hearing aid recommendation. While children may want a fun and colorful hearing aid, adults may stick to conservative hues. Many hearing aids for adults are compatible with smartphones, connecting to devices through Bluetooth. Adults also may utilize other assistive technology that works with their hearing aid. High-tech table-top microphones can be used in work meetings and can identify when a speaker has changed, adjusting the audio accordingly. Other microphones can transmit audio from the television or other devices. HEAR EVERYTHING, SEE NOTHING While many hearing aid models are visible, some are so tiny that they are imperceptible. These hearing aids fit directly into the ear where they can’t be seen. However, as manufacturer Starkey notes, they might not be for everyone. Individuals with poor fine motor function may find them difficult to place or to remove. Like other models, the invisible hearing aids also can be used to stream music and television shows. AUDITORY APPS FOR HEARING AIDS Hearing aid manufacturers also often provide an app that links to the hearing aid. These apps allow users to take control of their hearing aids and adjust sound for their needs. Widex offers the TONELINK™ app, and Phonak offers the myPhonak app for its models. However, other hearing aid manufacturers may offer their own apps, too. TONELINK™ allows users to control volume and change hearing aid programs. The app also provides users with the option to control the direction of sound to the hearing aid and even mute sound. Phonak’s app can connect the user to their audiologist, and help prompt any sound adjustments. The app also allows users to create a Hearing Diary so users can document their daily auditory experiences—like “speech understanding” and “sound quality.” The app also tracks how long the hearing aids were used each day. The development of these apps might seem like a given in our tech-savvy world. Apps, after all, are nothing new. However, what these apps represent to those who rely on hearing aids in their day-to-day activities shows the incredible advancement in technology in a matter of years. Controlling hearing aid volume was once a task that either had to be done by an audiologist (or hearing professional) or the individual by hand…and sometimes this simple adjustment required bringing out a tiny screwdriver. Now technology has placed much of the control in the hands of the wearer, and simple adjustments are a virtual endeavor. Download the app, connect the hearing aids and take control of the sound. For an individual who was born with a hearing impairment, the app provides more autonomy and less reliance on the medical community for a simple volume adjustment. HEARING IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT? When hearing aids became linked to apps and mobile software, they also were outfitted to work on the go. In our cars, the computer also has taken control. Smartphones link to our vehicles, and entertainment systems now allow us to stream our music, take phone calls and send quick texts. This gets a bit tricky with hearing aids. Phonak notes that their devices don’t connect with Bluetooth functions in the car. However, since the hearing aids pair with mobile devices, users may simply decide to keep their phone synced up to their hearing aids instead of the car system. Others may switch their phones to connect into the car. Connectivity preferences depend on the individual. HEARING AIDS AND THE INTERNET OF THINGS Hearing aids have gone so tech-savvy that some models will even pair up with the Internet of Things. The Hearing Review reported in 2016 that the Oticon Opn hearing aid was the first Internet of Things hearing aid. Oticon’s offerings are beyond what most would assume hearing aids can do—these hearing aids take tech to the next level. Via the Oticon ON app, users can link their hearing aids to many connective devices throughout their home. This means that the wearer will receive messages via their hearing aid that the laundry is finished or someone is at the door; Oticon’s site notes that lights and the thermostat can be adjusted when the hearing aids are turned off…or on. [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-12.jpeg] BEYOND HEARING AIDS: COCHLEAR IMPLANTS One of the biggest medical innovations in hearing technology was the cochlear implant; the first implant was placed in 1961. According to Johns Hopkins, cochlear implants may be an option when hearing aids aren’t providing enough auditory assistance. The implant “is a small electronic device that electrically stimulates the cochlear nerve.” However, external parts are part of the cochlear implant, too. How do these devices work? A microphone portion of the device sits behind the ear to receive audio, which sends the sounds to the internal implant. Johns Hopkins explains: “The internal part is placed under the skin behind the ear during an outpatient surgery. A thin wire and small electrodes lead to the cochlea, which is part of the inner ear. The wire sends signals to the cochlear nerve, which sends sound information to the brain to produce a hearing sensation.” [https://relaycars.gryffin.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/image-13.jpeg] HEARABLE TECHNOLOGY…FOR EVERYONE! Hearable technology in the world of audiology may focus on hearing aids and other devices to help with hearing impairments, but hearing technology is used by everyone…everyday. And, just like hearing aids, the hearing technology we use has evolved incredibly. HEADPHONES We can credit Nathaniel Baldwin for audio headphones; he invented them way back in 1910. Stuff TV notes, though, that it was John Koss who gave us the stereo headphones we know and love. These headphones were invented in 1958…a few years after Elvis began exploding on the radio. As stereo equipment and sound quality developed, headphones likely evolved, too. In 1979, Sony introduced a headphone game-changer: the Walkman. The portable cassette player allowed teens to play their favorite music without the neighbors complaining. The Walkman evolved into the Discman, which, of course, played CDs but still had the same concept. Like its predecessor, the Discman let individuals take their music on the go. These portable players made roadtrips, walks and runs so much more enjoyable back in the 80s and 90s. As compact discs were discarded for music downloads, the CD players we knew and loved—and the headphones that let us listen—became obsolete. Instead, the mp3 player took over. And later the smartphone. Music was digital and hearing technology evolved from foamy headphones to tiny earphones with incredible sound quality. Later, those earphones were stripped of cumbersome cords and received audio wirelessly. In 2006, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine introduced a line of headphones called Beats that were renowned for their audio quality. Beats products were so successful that Apple purchased the company in 2014. The Beats line now includes wireless earphones and headphones as well as speakers. THE MIC IS ON…THE HEADPHONES As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country and shut down businesses, many industries pivoted office environments to work-from-home virtual spaces. Videoconferencing became the norm, and many employees likely used hearing technology in these meetings. Headphones equipped with microphones allowed many at-home workers to drown out background noise (like kids!) while participating in meetings, interviews and conferences. Many of these headphones are equipped with Bluetooth to sync up to devices. THE FUTURE OF HEARABLE TECHNOLOGY? While hearing aids may have some limitations, the future of hearing technology will probably lead to incredible advancements in user control and connectivity. Hearing aids will likely start adapting to all the tech in our lives, maybe even our cars. Hearing technology for everyday life also will continue to advance. Ashcroft already created the first IoT headphones, which actually recognize the music you love and downloads songs accordingly. The possibility of IoT headphones, however, will likely lead us to giving commands to Alexa to turn off lights, brew coffee or order pizza while then continuing to stream our favorite tunes. Technology is always advancing, and the evolution of sound and the technology that controls it will take our ears into the future.