Going to a car dealership is notoriously fraught with anxiety. In addition to some guy in a plaid jacket trying to upsell you on hubcaps, you never know if they're going to have the exact car you're looking for, with the right options, in the right colour. How do you know if it's what you want if you can't see it with your own eyes? With this new tool for the Oculus Rift, that might not be a problem anymore.
Chaotic Moon, the Austin-based cadre of smart people that brought us the terrifying concept taser-drone earlier this year, wants to change the way you buy a car. It works by combining two very cool pieces of existing hardware: The Oculus Rift, and the Leap Motion controller. Check out the short video above.
The Oculus is obviously a wonderful and versatile platform for virtual reality that has a lot of developers excited, but it doesn't offer much in the way of input. By attaching a Leap Motion controller to the front of the Oculus Rift, though, you can use your hands to manipulate the images you see in front of you, Ironman style.
The system essentially puts you into a virtual world with the vehicle of your choice. You can use your hands to rotate it around, pull up menus, and tweak options which are instantly visually integrated into the car you're looking at. "Would this car look better with a spoiler on the back? Nope! It sure doesn't!" Of course, you can instantly switch paint-jobs, too. It's the kind of experience that you would never be able to get at a physical car dealership.
Not only that, but Chaotic Moon's John Fremont told us that they are working on virtual test drive scenarios. This would get you and the car outside of the showroom environment, and you could see your customised car performing in different environments. Maybe that upholstery doesn't look so good in bright daylight. Nice to know that before you're committed to it, right?
Of course it would be much more difficult to translate the sense of power and handling to a virtual test drive (you'd probably need a high-end, multi-million dollar motion simulation rig if it was going to be at all accurate), but maybe you can drive a stock car at the dealership to see how it feels, then use the Oculus to see how your personal rig would look.
"This technology gives automakers an enormous advantage," Chaotic Moon's CEO Ben Lamm told us. "Dealers can take their entire showroom right to buyers and deliver a first-hand experience in any environment. Dealers can demonstrate and sell cars that aren't even on their lots. And eventually, buyers will also be able to take virtual test drives. That's a huge boon for companies like Tesla, who don't operate with a large number of showrooms."
Chaotic Moon hasn't announced any partners on this, but they say they're working with a number of manufacturers on making this a reality. Automakers could let consumers experience their vehicles at trade shows/other events. Hell, you could try out insane concept cars that will probably never be made. Or, maybe, if you prototype them virtually and people are interested, they could become a real thing. There are definitely a ton of ways this could be used, either at car dealerships, or even in your own home. I mean, if yesterday is any indication, really good, really cheap virtual reality is about to spread very quickly. [Chaotic Moon]