German car giant BMW is planning to use augmented reality technology developed by Google to help it sell cars.
The company announced on Thursday that it has released an Android app that utlitises Google’s new Tango technology, thereby enabling people to use their smartphones to view lifelike 3D models of certain BMW cars (the BMW i3 and the BMW i8) against a backdrop of the real world.
The app — developed by technology consultancy firm Accenture — allows people to walk around a virtual car that isn’t really there and even step inside and explore the interior. It was uploaded to the Google Play Store on Thursday but it will only work on Tango-enabled devices, which are only just appearing on the market but include the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro and the Asus Zenfone AR.
Using augmented reality in this way should allow BMW’s potential customers to familiarise themselves with its cars and explore various customisation options from the comfort of their living room. It should also provide car dealers with another tool to help them push their stock. BMW claims it is the first car company to use augmented reality in this way.
Andrea Castronovo, BMW Group’s VP of sales strategy and future retail, said in a statement: “Our vehicles are emotional products and to get that emotional feeling, you really need to experience them. In situations where the desired product isn’t available on the spot, this visualisation is the next best thing.”
Tango uses a combination of smartphone cameras, sensors and infrared to perceive the depth of an object.
Eric Johnsen, head of business development for augmented reality at Google, said in a statement: “The thing that sets Tango apart is the fact that it understands the context of the space that it’s in. So the wheels are really on the floor, for example, giving the whole experience a much more realistic feel.”
The BMW partnership with Google and Accenture highlights the increasing trend of car makers working with tech giants. On Wednesday, Ford announced plans to embed Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa into its vehicles.