In the short term, Microsoft and Volvo Cars are working together to transform car shopping with the help of augmented reality holographic computing. Over the long term, however, the companies also envision expanding their partnership to do even more, including developing self-driving cars.
Announced late Thursday evening, the partnership proposes to use Microsoft’s HoloLens wearable holographic computing device to enhance the experience of potential car buyers at Volvo dealerships. In conjunction with the news, the two companies offered a demonstration at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington of how “mixed-reality” car shopping might work.
In addition to helping would-be buyers better understand what new cars might look like before they’re even built, the HoloLens technology could also enable new ways of selling cars. For example, Volvo said the technology could permit car sales via small pop-up stores in areas where dealerships are currently unable to operate.
‘Non-Intrusive, Extended Reality’
“Experiences like the one we created with Volvo allow you to experience holograms within the context of your real world environment,” Scott Erickson, Microsoft’s senior director for HoloLens, wrote in a blog post. “With HoloLens your peripheral vision is largely preserved, in order to allow you to move around spaces — like a vehicle showroom — very freely. This is a significant benefit to companies, like Volvo, where how people experience both the car and the dealership environment are very important.”
In a video demonstration of how HoloLens-assisted car buying might work, Magnus Brodd, Volvo’s head of creative strategy, noted, “it doesn’t intrude in any of the things you do but it also extends the realities around you.”
First previewed during the Microsoft Build conference in April, the HoloLens is not yet on the market, although a $3,000 developer edition is expected to begin shipping sometime in the first quarter of 2016. Microsoft is also collaborating on HoloLens projects with a variety of other partners, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic and Trimble Architecture.
A ‘Huge Improvement’ in Car Design
Over the longer term, Microsoft said it expects to collaborate further with Volvo on the automaker’s self-driving vehicle ambitions. The car company has already announced an experimental program called Drive Me in which 100 autonomous connected cars will be given to real-world customers around the Swedish city of Gothenburg in 2017. Volvo said the pilot will be “the world’s largest autonomous driving experiment.”
For now, “Microsoft’s work with Volvo on HoloLens represents a huge improvement to the way cars will be designed,” J.P. Gownder, a principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. told us. “The takeaway is that HoloLens will change the way products are designed — period”
For one thing, product designers can employ mixed reality to design and collaborate. This announcement from Volvo is just the next logical step in what will be a huge market for HoloLens going forward — the product design space, he added, Sci-Tech Today reports.