As the Pagani sports car’s gull-wing door flies open I instinctively jerk back my head to avoid losing a few IQ points. Crouching low, I stick my head inside and inspect the posh leather and finely detailed interior of this high-performance masterpiece. Walking around the car’s exterior, I drink in the viscous curves and shining red finish of the body. I let out a low whistle as I can’t help but think that if I had the money I would snatch this baby up in a second. These reactions are all completely real even though the car in front of me doesn’t actually exist.
In reality, I’m standing in the middle of Unity’s Vision Summit demo hall with an HTC Vive strapped to my face. The automotive dream-come-true I’ve been ogling is merely a digital construction by a UK company called ZeroLight.
ZeroLight’s Joseph Artgole is grinning at me as I remove the headset. What strikes me right off the bat is the obvious: this car simply looks too real to be fake.
“There are about 6-7 million polygons in that model,” Artgole tells me. I find that very impressive but Artgole’s colleague Luke Withington suggests I go back into the demo to see something even better.
With the Vive back on, I am once again transported to the sunlit plinth on which the Pagani is displayed. I take a step closer and before my eyes the car begins to disassemble itself. Body panels fly off revealing the mechanical workings underneath. Those pieces then also break apart into even more specialized parts and the whole process continues until I suddenly find myself surrounded by thousands of floating car parts and accessories.
This, according to Artgole, is what truly sets ZeroLight apart as a car visualization platform. His company does not merely convert cars into pretty looking virtual models, they actually construct each part individually and then build the car in the digital space the exact same way it is constructed in real life. This means that when Artgole re-assembled the car right in front of me, I was able to go in and take apart the car myself and examine each individual piece with a Vive hand controller.
This level of immersive power is not just meant for fun or entertainment. According to Artgole, ZeroLight exists first and foremost to sell cars and the company already has contracts with both Pagani and Audi to bring their lines into these digital showrooms:
“We deliver the visualisation aspect of Audi’s configurators across all channels. We began working with them in 2014 and our visualisation solution is used in a variety of ways…We later expanded and developed VR experiences, of which our most well-known was shown at CES in January – the Audi Walking VR experience…We also work with Pagani, one of the most luxurious and exclusive brands in the world. Pagani are a very interesting brand to work with as they make extremely high-end, bespoke supercars that are built to order. Pagani use our technology to provide every configuration possible to clients during their buying journey, so they can visualise their exact car before purchase.”
Audi in particular is interested in bringing VR show technology to their physical dealerships, Artgole explained:
“Our VR solution is part of a global rollout for Audi who are offering HTC and Oculus-powered experiences for their dealers depending on dealership size and scale. For example, HTC Vive installations in Audi City locations and Oculus Rift in others. You’ll start seeing these solutions surface throughout the year and onwards. As people become more accustomed to Virtual Reality as a medium we would expect the number of installations in dealerships throughout the industry to increase.”
Artgole also mentioned that ZeroLight is “actively pursuing” partnerships with other car manufacturers as well, although he declined to name any specifically. He said announcements are “coming soon.”
With Audi ramping up VR showcases, and more brands being announced soon, ZeroLight seems to be pioneering a future where the car buying process can be fully carried out inside a digital space. This would have huge repercussions for online and mobile auto shopping, and Artgole made it clear that this possibility has not been lost on ZeroLight.
“We’re working on our cloud solution which allows the delivery of a highly advanced configurator to any device with an internet connection, regardless of the device’s capabilities…97 percent of car customers research information online and we’re seeing a growing trend of consumers willing to actually complete the entire process using the web. The ZeroLight web configurator allows the manufacturer to deliver a full 3D configurator experience using powerful cloud rendering technology, so customers have every option available to explore on any web-enabled device…As the VR install base increases we will ultimately witness virtual reality moving more upstream to the web, allowing complete configuration experiences and test drives in the comfort of your own home before making a purchase.”
When ZeroLight announces new partners and features we will be sure to bring you all of those updates at UploadVR.