Technology for Promotion at the Los Angeles Auto Show

The 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show is underway this week. The cars are the stars, but you can read about them elsewhere. Instead, here are some of the interesting technology installed on the show floor.

There were two venues that featured the Microsoft HoloLens. I had been interested by this augmented reality headset and was happy this was a chance to try them myself.

Hololens 1 - Nissan

Nissan chose to use HoloLens to showcase their driving assist technologies. Up to six people (three front, three rear) can put on a HoloLens and look at the little toy Nissan on the table. Each of wearer sees an interactive environment projected around the toy car to illustrate how various features assist the driver. It’s possible to walk a bit to check different perspectives, but movement was limited because the HoloLens units were tethered to the table.

I felt this presentation underutilized HoloLens. It didn’t feel significantly superior to what you can accomplish with a cell phone, Pokemon-Go style.

Hololens 2 - Petersen

The other HoloLens exhibit was actually an exhibit at the Petersen Automotive Museum that they’ve brought to the auto show floor. The program is not interactive, but the user can walk around and check out views from different perspectives as the narrated presentation proceeded.

The best part was when they started illustrating airflow over and through the insides of the physical 2017 Ford GT in front of us. It’s quite informative to be able to move your head around to get a better feel of where the airflow is moving. Especially the X-Ray view of airflow through and under the car.

This was a much better demonstration of what’s possible with the superior precision and response rate of HoloLens tracking.

Several booth displays had some sort of virtual reality equipment. It is interesting that none of them were used to showcase any kind of driving. Just the opposite – most of them were there to showcase autonomous vehicle technology, a.k.a. the lack of driving.

VR 1 - Ford motion couch

Ford brought this motion-controlled couch with four seats, each of which can seat somebody with a Google Cardboard-style headset to experience riding in a Ford autonomous vehicle.

VR 2 - Volvo

Volvo brought in four Vive headsets to illustrate their safety technologies, much as Nissan did with Hololens. One random technical point of interest: I only found a single location beacon in the installation. Vive usually needs two beacons. I wonder where the other beacon was or if they’ve managed to do without the second.

VR 3 - Infiniti

Infiniti’s VR experience takes the guest on a virtual ride in the QX50. The most novel part of the program was the beginning, where parts of the SUV flew through space and assembled themselves around the viewer into a QX50.

VR 4 - VW

In contrast to the compact seating of the Volvo booth, VW put up this huge glass ring to give their I.D. Crozz VR ride plenty of elbow room. The guest seemed to stay seated through the whole experience so it’s not clear why this amount of room was necessary.

VR 5 - Nissan

I’m sure Nissan paid a lot of money for their Star Wars license for car promotion. And they were not afraid to use it! Liberally customized Nissans modeled after various Star Wars properties were on display. Their pavilion included this “Droid Repair Bay” VR activity. It looked so cool I almost didn’t wonder what it had to do with cars.

None of the AR or VR experiences featured any actual driving. For that, there were plenty of old-fashioned driving simulators on display.

Driving Sim 1 - Forza

Forza Motorsports are here to promote… themselves! I have Forza at home so didn’t bother to spend time playing it here.

Driving Sim 2 - Hyundai

Hyundai Racing had a four-seat configuration. What caught my eye is that they’re using Forza for the driving experience but the race car is sponsored by Gran Turismo. (See banner on top of the windshield.) Hmm…

Driving Sim 3 - Demon

Not all the driving sims were about the race track; the simulator set up in the Dodge pavilion lets people try their hands at drag racing. A fitting way to promote their drag strip focused Dodge Demon.

Driving Sim 4 - Ford

Ford brought in a full-motion driving simulator to promote the off-road focused F-150 Raptor. The hydraulic cylinders simulate the rough and tumble of racing head-to-head (back-to-back?) through a dirt track.

All good marketing companies have worked to think up ways to build customer connection through social media. There were plenty of photo booths present for people to post company-sponsored images to their social media. Two stood out for their novelty.

Selfie 1 - Honda

Honda’s “Dream Machine” is a selfie cam mounted in a little pivoting pod at floor level. After the person takes the picture, they press a trigger and a smoke ring puffs out of the pod towards the big screen, “sending” the picture to be displayed on the big screen.

Selfie 2 - Toyota

Toyota brought an array of cameras that all takes a picture at the same time, so the guest receives an animated GIF of them in Matrix-style “bullet-time”.

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