As this week is the 2016 International LA Autoshow and there will be numerous car launches and announcements, it comes as no surprise that Jaguar is launching a new car. This new car, the Jaguar I-Pace, is the technological and cultural successor to the company’s F-Pace SUV. The I-Pace is a completely redesigned vehicle from the ground up and features a fully electric power train and new modern design that accounts for being fully electric. The I-Pace Concept is essentially a direct competitor to Tesla’s Model X P90D with a dual motor design and 90 kWh battery that puts out an equivalent of about 400 Horsepower and 700 ft. lbs. of torque. What does any of this have to do with VR?
Because Jaguar decided to announce the new I-Pace electric SUV completely in VR using presenters, 3D models, diagrams, animations and designs completely in VR. The way Jaguar did it was through HTC Vive headsets placed at every table, with 6 people sitting at a table each with their own HTC Vive headset, headphones and single Vive controller.
To create this experience Jaguar partnered with the Imagination Agency with help from REWIND and technology partners HTC and Dell. HTC supplied the headsets and Dell supplied the Dell Precision 7900 workstations with NVIDIA GTX 1080s inside to power the experience built by REWIND for Jaguar, Imagination’s customer. The first thing they had us do during the launch was to put on our headsets. We could see all the other people at our table with avatars that looked like color-coded representations of people’s headsets.
This way you could see your table mates and then a mini slot car track showed up where each person at the table could play slot cars with each other until the launch itself began. This was semi-competitive and was a fun little mini-game and distraction until the main event began. At our table, it immediately sparked some conversation and interaction between people as their little Jaguar slot cars flew off the track.
Once that was over, a presenter who showed up by way of live local video feed got all our attention and I noticed that you could see all the people around you at all the other tables as well. Everyone’s ‘avatar’ of their headset was visible and could be individually identified by color and table. They did this for 66 people at the same time, which is a feat in of itself because we were all interconnected.
Eventually, the feed started and the presenter got everyone’s attention starting to talk about the journey of how Jaguar reached this point in their evolution, and introduced Jaguar’s famous designer to talk about designing the car. This included showing interactive sketches, wire meshes, battery packs, motors and other parts of the car that allowed you to fully interact with the objects as they talked about them. You could see the other people doing the same across the room all interacting with the same 3D models individually. The amazing part was how well all of the headsets were interconnected and how we could wave to two groups of people participating from the UK, sans the typical broadcast audio delay, everything was perfect and there was no noticeable lag, anywhere, at all.
Additionally, Jaguar had a finished prototype of the vehicle for users to look inside in VR, without ever having to see the car in person. Thankfully, they snuck a real-world version of the vehicle into the room while we were all sitting in VR. The overall design, implementation and explanation of everything about the Jaguar I-Pace was nearly perfectly executed in VR by Jaguar and Imagination. It gave me a sense of engagement and immersion with a product I never had before. So many people walked out of that experience sold on the vehicle’s attributes, design and performance even though they didn’t even know the price.
Jaguar did not talk about price, but they did say that this car will be available to consumers in the second half of 2018, just around the same time as many of their other competitors. OnePlus did the first VR launch to my knowledge with Google cardboard with a 360-degree video and Facebook did a semi-VR launch with the GearVR at MWC earlier this year. But Jaguar has once again raised the bar for VR launched with these HTC Vive interactive experiences. I really do not believe that product launches will ever be the same again. Jaguar says that the I-Pace Concept VR experience will also be available through Viveport “in due course.” Jaguar is inviting people to express their interest in the I-Pace finished vehicle based on the concept on their website.
Disclosure: My firm, Moor Insights & Strategy, like all research and analyst firms, provides or had provided research, analysis, advising, and/or consulting to many high-tech companies in the industry, including Dell Technologies, NVIDIA and others cited this article. I do not hold any equity positions with any companies cited in this column.