It’s a September evening at Epcot in Florida.
In a virtual reality theater, of sorts, park patrons sit in what can best be described as large ski lifts.
The IMAX screen in front of them displays rolling video of California landmarks, as the contraption moves to reflect what is being shown on the screen and to simulate hang-gliding over the Golden State — all while “smells” of the landscapes are piped into the room.
These Disney World visitors were experiencing virtual reality, not necessarily a new phenomenon, but one that may have some legs for car dealers and makers.
VR has been around for decades, says Pat Hadnagy, who is executive director of VR product development and strategy of EVOX Images. And many consumers have become acclimated to VR through travel, gaming and 360-degree videos, he says.
His company, for one, provides automotive stock photography, 360-degree auto imaging, build-to-order auto content solutions, and in recent years has also moved to the virtual reality space.
Lately, VR has been picking up traction in the car business, an industry in which Hadnagy sees great potential. Including the used-car side of the market, he said.
“When it comes down to used vehicles — and probably, maybe even more specifically, CPOs — we feel that being able to experience a vehicle from a car research perspective, to be able to see what a certain type of vehicle is, a certain make and model, body style of a vehicle is, in VR is much more immersive and impactful than just looking at images on car,” he said.
“So, from the research perspective of the car-buying experience, even for used vehicles, the fact that we have been capturing our content, our regular automotive image library content, since model-year 2000, and now on the VR side since January of 2015, our library and our growing VR library will only continue to support those levels of research activities,” Hadnagy said.
“And when it comes down to CPO, specifically, knowing that many of those have manufacturer warranties, the wear-and-tear on those is a variable that we can’t necessarily account for, but the make and model, year, type is something that we could certainly demonstrate, and can help easily persuade a consumer towards one vehicle over the other.”
Editor's note: This is an abridged version of a more comprehensive feature on virtual reality that will appear in the May 1 Innovation Issue of Auto Remarketing.