BMW experiments with augmented reality technology

BMW_i_Visualizer_app
The BMW i Visualizer app utilizes augmented reality technology to allow users to virtually explore a vehicle on their smartphone.


Move over Pokemon Go, there’s another augmented reality (AR) player in town. This time, the technology isn’t used to catch virtual monsters, but allow consumers to manipulate a fully detailed vehicle right on their smartphone.

BMW, working with automotive industrial consultant Accenture, has rolled out an app called the BMW i Visualizer that utilizes Google’s proprietary Tango AR technology. Users can call up a 3-D image of an i3 or i8 onscreen, which is overlaid onto whatever is in the background. Just like the real thing, the doors can be opened, the lights switched on, etc.

BMW i Visualizer i3

“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,” said Eric Johnsen, head of Google Ar business development.

 “It’s that level of detail which means this technology offers the customers real added value,” said Johnsen.

There are customization features built into the app as well. For example, exterior paint colours, interior options and wheel styles can all be changed by simply tapping on the touchscreen. Afterwards, the modifications can be saved and shared via email, QR code or social media.

BMW i Visualizer hands on

The German manufacturer says it is the first automotive brand in the world to roll out such an offering. The i Visualizer is part of BMW’s Future Retail program launched three years ago, aimed at evolving the customer vehicle purchasing experience. Other innovations include the Product Genius and the Virtual Product Presenter.

The i Division was chosen as the starting point due to its reputation as the “spearhead of innovation at the BMW Group.”

The app is still in the pilot phase, currently implemented in a handful of stores. The plan is to eventually offer the software in the Google Play store so it will be available to anyone with a Tango-equipped mobile device.

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Benjamin Yong is a freelance journalist and communications professional living in Richmond, B.C. He is often found writing about cars and the auto industry, amongst other things, or driving around in his work-in-progress 1990 Mazda MX-5.

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