Selling Cars In Virtual Reality Showroom

Vroom, a used car sales startup, is trying to capitalize on the current virtual reality boom. The company said on Tuesday that it would let people browse for used cars by letting them visit showrooms in virtual reality, according to Vroom’s chief marketing officer, Gaurav Misra.

Vroom plans to open VR showrooms at its Texas offices in Grand Prairie and Houston, and in mall pop-up stores in Austin and Phoenix, Misra said. Customers who visit them would be able to wear VR headsets to check out 15 different car models.

A Dallas-based marketing firm, 900lbs of Creative, built the software and graphical interface that powers Vroom’s VR showroom that users see in headsets. Vroom also partnered on the project with Taiwan-based HTC, which builds the Vive VR headset used in the showrooms.

In a demo of the VR showroom last week, Fortune was able to see a few of the models in stock and take a few test drives of those cars in virtual reality. Users are put in a virtual world that includes a large, black corridor with several 3D representations of the cars parked as if at a used car dealer.

To create a sense of movement, Vroom pre-recorded what seemed to be a 360-degree video of someone actually driving a car and superimposed that pre-recorded video into the windows and windshield of the virtual car. It’s similar to the ways movie directors set up blue screens behind actors so they can overlay scenery after they film a scene.

The drive lasted only a few minutes and lacked the physical sensation of road bumps, for example, so it’s difficult to say how smooth a car is in reality while driving down the road or how well the car handles. Users essentially just follow along for the ride without being able to steer or park the car.

The current version is just a starting point that Vroom hopes to use for the future development.

The startup will release a home-version of its VR showroom by the end of the year that users can access using a Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR device.

In June, General Motors said that it would create virtual reality showrooms for its Cadillac brand of luxury cars. German automobile maker Audi said in January that it would create its own VR showrooms with one built this year at its Audi City London store.

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