In a project on virtual car clinics the GfK Verein explores potential applications of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies in market research specifically for the automotive industry. During the product development process, car manufactures typically conduct so-called car clinics in which a prototype of a new model is presented and tested along with competitor vehicles. The logistic effort to do this is costly in terms of time and money: A highly confidential prototype has to be manufactured and transported to the relevant target countries for testing. Competitor vehicles have to be rented as well as large test spaces that provide professional lighting and flexible construction equipment. And everything needs to satisfy the high safety standards of manufacturers to protect the exhibited prototypes.
With the help of VR technologies data collection could be greatly simplified: Car clinics could take place simultaneously in different countries, with much less demand in terms of test location size and setup effort. At the same time, manufacturers can receive early feedback about different design options before a real prototype can even be produced. Moreover, there are extended possibilities of showing, for instance, different colors, wheel rims, interior configurations and functions. All in all, car clinics could become a more cost-efficient, agile and flexible tool, results could be available much earlier.
But is the technology really ready for practical application in this context? Which technical options are available today? How well is the new technology accepted by respondents? What are the main challenges? Feasibility depends crucially on manufacturers’ willingness to provide CAD data of their vehicles. Additionally, the rendering of high-resolution and high-quality 3D models is still relatively costly.
Together with the Automotive Research Team at GfK SE, the GfK Verein is testing whether the display of 3D car models in a virtual showroom, presented via head-mounted displays, will deliver results that are comparable to a traditional car clinic with real vehicles. Moreover, the study will provide insights about consumer needs and preferences in regard to the new VR technologies, including possible obstacles such as distraction or discomfort.
The video below shows some impressions from the virtual car clinic:
Jörg Leißner, GfK SE