If you have heard of Oculus Rift you probably know that it is basically the flagship for virtual reality in the public market and it’s touted to be the “next generation” in the gaming world. If you have followed closely, you might even know that Oculus Rift is expanding a bit further beyond games and gaming, catching interest from film and media creators as well. So what was it doing at one of the biggest car shows in the US?
The Oculus was featured at two different manufacturers – Toyota and Chrysler. Toyota’s set up revolved around awareness of poor driving that was aimed at teens and parents. Participants would choose from various events that distracted drivers and could potentially cause an accident. Once selected, the person would get into a Camry that had the Oculus Rift set up inside. The demo allowed drivers to use the gas pedal, brake pedal, and steering wheel as if they were actually driving while going through a cartoon simulation.
With the addition of a heavy duty set of over-the-ear headphones, the normal sounds of city driving, noisy passengers, and music accompanied the simulation to really immerse the driver in the virtual world. Despite the simulation being a GTA: Vice City-esque cartoon, the combination of having to combat quickly changing traffic lights, figuring out the sensitivity of the pedals and steering, tuning out distracting passengers and other noise, and minding other distracted drivers all while attempting to navigate the road, the realness of motion and the environment was enough to warrant a firm warning from the demo instructor – if you feel nauseous take off the equipment immediately.
In contrast to Toyota’s set-up, Chrysler’s exhibit had participants sit in their vehicle and, rather than maneuvering around a vertigo-inducing demo, they got to experience what it takes to make a Chrysler 200 while sitting inside it.
The demonstration started with a normal Chrysler 200 view from the inside and then broke into an exploded view of the vehicle, displaying each layer of parts and equipment with three tutorial videos on how various parts were made in the Chrysler factory – the paint, the body, and quality control features. The visual detail in each segment was astounding and the reality of the virtual world, comprised of both real footage and computer generated images, was incredible. Viewers watched mechanical arms check each rivet, protrusion, and corner of the frame around them to ensure some ridiculous percentage of accuracy that the measurements were no more than the thickness of a human hair different. They also watched as they traveled with the steel frame through an ostrich feather cleaning before getting its many layers of paint. Details of the process were explained over the headset, but the real star of the show was the Oculus and the VR.
With these two companies just scratching the surface of what capabilities VR has, it will not be too long before the Oculus breaks out in other formats both in the car world and out. Imagine watching a full length feature of How It’s Made and getting a more comprehensive experience of being inside a vehicle as it is put together, from start to finish. Or being a crash-test dummy and being able to see from a first person perspective how various impacts affect passengers inside. The possibilities are endless and incredible.
As the technology becomes more popular and eventually cheaper, one can only hope the Toyota and Chrysler demos are just the foundation of VR technology in the automotive world.