It sounds just like a childhood dream: You build a racetrack in a sandbox – with sharp turns, a tunnel system, and some fun mud puddles. But instead of completing the course with an old matchbox car, you put yourself the behind the wheel. Audi makes this dream a reality. The car manufacturer from Ingolstadt, Germany, launched a marketing campaign titled Enter Sandbox and is currently touring it across Norway.
The installation itself is fairly simple: an oversized sandpit, a 3D depth-sensing camera, and, of course, a cockpit with a VR headset, where you can sit behind the wheel. "The whole process happens in two stages," explains virtual reality producer Johan Anstérus. "First of all we you show how you can build your racetrack in the sandbox and, for example, how to add jumps. We then scan your track and replicate it within a real-time 3D world."
To render the racetrack, the special 3D camera bounces infrared light off sand. VR software measures how far away the sand is and then converts this information into terrain data. The cockpit of the simulator is equipped with a steering wheel, pedals, and a vibrating seat so the driver can feel every virtual bump and pothole – even if they crash the Audi Q5 head-on into the sand. The result is a fascinating combination of virtual reality and real brand experience.
However, Audi is not the only company using virtual reality in marketing. BMW recently introduced its concept car, the Vision Next 100 , in an interactive 3D film. And Vodafone (Pavilion P32) is making autonomous driving a reality with its VR simulator – part of its promotional campaign for 5G technology . This allows you to participate in a video conference or shop online while driving – with the vehicle constantly exchanging traffic data to ensure a safe journey.
Virtual reality seems to have already almost established itself in the travel sector, too. For example, the Hilton group uses VR to attract vacationers to its Caribbean resorts. The travel company Thomas Cook has equipped 880 of its German branches with virtual reality headsets . This enables customers to explore 50 destinations and hotels virtually. These cases show that the marketing possibilities for virtual reality are seemingly endless. The time for playing in sandboxes shows no sign of ending soon.
Experience the latest virtual reality trends in person at CeBIT 2017: at the Virtual & Augmented Reality area in Hall 17, the startup showcase SCALE11 , and at the CeBIT Global Conferences in the Loft in Hall 8.