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Can VR Help You Buy A Car?

How much do you hate car shopping? According to a 2014 study by Edmunds, only 2 of out of 10 like to car shop. The rest? Well they’d rather clean a toilet, give up a sex for a month or do their taxes than deal with the car buying process. Seriously, read it here.

My friend and car salesman, Hans. He’s one of good ones!

Like most people, I don’t relish in the stress of it all. For me, the worst part is walking into the dealership and the GUYS (yes, they’re always guys) jumping up and giving me the once over like I’m a chicken in a fox den. Listen boys, if I wanted to be assaulted by cologne-covered sleaze balls, I’d belly up to the pack of bros invariably planted outside of my local Starbucks.

What if technology could help us avoid it all together? Or at least put the slippery sales dude at arms-length so that I can shop at my own pace, in my sweatpants, without the threat of sexual assault like the grown-up I reportedly am? Enter this woman:

relay cars virtual reality

This is Gina Callari, she is the Chief Operations Officer of RelayCars and EVOX Images.  She’s an industry veteran (LA Auto Show, Edmunds, etc) that joined EVOX Images about 5 years ago and is committed to enhancing the consumer experience using technology and EVOX’s unique positioning. Note: EVOX makes stock imagery and video for the country’s leading auto manufacturers. Gina recently invited me to EVOX’s LA headquarters to find out more about their Relay Cars division and to experience this VR thing myself.

What’s up with the Lysol? No clue..I smell fine! Thank you.

So, first of all, the EVOX facility is amazing.  If you’ve ever struggled to get a good picture of a car—brace yourself. These guys have several enormous sound stages with perfect lighting, a few car-sized Lazy Susans for easy angle shifts, not to mention a staff of people doing post-production, CGI, etc. I couldn’t help but imagine what they could do to my Instagram feed…sigh..

A few years ago, the team at EVOX realized that they had the perfect set up to create an automotive virtual reality experience. So they put one together. Then they thought, ‘Oh hey, we should put this on the Oculus store. Let’s see if anyone downloads it.” ONE MILLION downloads later, they are thinking this thing could really work. But of course, Mama hadn’t tried it yet.

So first they set me up with a headset and gave me a short tutorial. I’ve had a few VR experiences (in college—hasn’t everyone?) so they weren’t popping my cherry or anything, but I’m certainly no gamer or an expert.  However, I was pretty anxious to bypass the riffraff and get my virtual ass in a vehicle as soon as possible. And I did! Did I look stupid? Hell yeah:

Check out the guy laughing at me in the background!

The guy behind me can barely contain his laughter at my stupidity. But that’s fine. By the time I was done, I had selected a body style, a vehicle:

And even changed its color:

And I then sat inside:

Where this gets interesting is that a salesperson can join your experience remotely, enabling them to talk you through the vehicle. For me, that sounded great. Especially because I found that, in this virtual world, I felt superhuman. I mean, if I can change the color of a truck on the fly, what else am I capable of? Hmmm… Plus, if your sales guy can’t give you the once over, they can’t judge your race, your gender or your car knowledge. (Oh but please sir, go ahead and try!)

How soon will this happen? Well, virtual reality is quickly becoming main stream. And thanks to advancements in the headsets as well as cell phone/laptop capability, may not need a headset at all.  And Relay Cars is already available for download.  What about the test drive, you ask? Well, it will be a while until we can replicate that perfectly through technology—be sure to tell that to your nephew who thinks he can drive a real car because he’s reached Level 50 on Gran Turismo.  However, Relay Cars is a great start and may just save many of us the legwork of facing the dealership when all we really want to do is stay home on the couch with the dog. (No, I’m not watching you)

For more on Relay Cars, check out their sexy promotional video:

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