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Auto Show Shows Off VR Technology

A look at Ford’s incredible VR introduction of their new Shelby, at this year’s NAIAS.

The North American International Auto Show, held annually in Detroit Michigan, USA, always features technological innovation. Usually, that innovation is in automotive technology. This year, however, it was VR technology that blew everyone away.


The Reveal

Long before the show, automotive giant Ford imagined a memorable introduction for the next model of the Shelby GT500.

ford presentation vr technology new shelby

Picture it (or watch it online here): the sought-after muscle car racing through the streets of Detroit. The track ends on the top of a parking structure. From there, a helicopter carries the car onto the roof of another building. Not just any building, the Cobo center — the building that hosts the NAIAS. So far, this is all happening in virtual reality. But then, the car is lowered into the Cobo center — not in VR but before the eyes of 750 attendees. Lowering the car through the roof of a convention center was the easy part.

ford shelby vr presentation ceiling


The Partners

The VR video was created by Imagination, a global creative agency and Ford Partner. The VR technology to create immersive video like that used by Ford is one thing. Putting it in front of hundreds of people at once is something entirely different.

To share the video, Ford worked with VR Owl, a VR/AR agency. VR Owl specializes in events, 360 video, and 3D animation — the perfect skillset to solve Ford’s problem.

For this VR experience, the VR Owl team loaded Ford’s content into their software called VR Sync. “The main challenge was managing the content beforehand and starting it at the exact same time. This was managed by using VR Sync – by uploading and starting the content with the push of the button,” Tim Nijland, CMO of VR Owl told ARPost.

As VR Owl further explains, the software “connects an unlimited amount of headsets to one device (laptop, smartphone or special event device) without the need for an internet connection, just a local network.” Then, by using using OSC, they integrated VR Sync into the event’s Watchout system. “This allowed Ford to be in full control; they could play, pause and stop the 360 video automatically from the show system.”

Ford NAIAS 2019

Finally, headsets — over seven hundred of them — were provided by Lenovo.

“We thought we’d take an ambitious creative move, give everyone a VR headset, and allow them to experience that kind of exhilaration of the GT 500,” Alistair Wilson, Managing Director of Imagine, told Detroit’s Local 4 News. “I think it gave everyone a very special moment they’ll always remember.”


Other Experiences

The work described so far has been for the Shelby reveal and that wasn’t the only VR technology present.

See Also:  The Rise of Virtual Reality in Automotive Retail

Visitors could also view Ford cars in different colors or different modifications while sitting in or standing near a car. Another attraction placed visitors inside a Ford car on a track within the Cobo center. As the car moved, the passenger viewed terrain that matched the car’s inclination and speed. Selected scenery came from famous American locations and parks.

“We want to be able to get thousands of people into [Ford’s] new car,” said Wilson. And since they couldn’t do it physically, because they haven’t built them yet, they decided to take people there virtually.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.