The challenge: Create a unique world of experience
Digital media and social networks have fundamentally transformed consumer expectations. According to research by McKinsey, while 85 percent of new car buyers still make use of the classic dealership touchpoints, three-quarters of these customers are dissatisfied with the quality of their experience there. Consequently, when Daimler launched its new Mercedes E-Class, the company decided to break new ground: Innovative real-time gaming technology was used to create a photorealistic vehicle that offers potential customers a highly intensive experience of the typical perceived quality of this new-generation Mercedes, against a backdrop as close to reality as possible.
Unlike in conventional animated product videos, the idea was to give customers the opportunity to exercise interactive real-time control via an attractive user interface – an experience familiar to today’s customers from elaborately designed adventure games. Interaction enhances the virtual reality experience – planting the seed of an emotionally tinged attachment to the digitally displayed Mercedes model while the decision to purchase is still at an early stage.
The solution: Intuitive virtual reality interaction
CGI specialist Mackevision, predestined to partner in the realization of such an ambitious project, took on the task of developing the corresponding data model, as well as the digital scene-setting. The assignment also included the creation of striking visual effects and an intuitive user interface that would blend elements of car configuration and virtual reality into a single integrated unit. Oculus Rift enables users to configure their car virtually. For example, they can click on the color of the desired E-Class model or choose from a range of different wheels and rim sizes. They can rotate the car in either direction, zoom in on it or pull out for a long shot. The doors and trunk can be opened to view the interior, displaying the instrument panel and seats. The viewer can open and close the center console, fold down the back seat and switch lights on and off. Materials and colors can also be changed – black nappa leather upholstery can be changed to brown, for example. Mackevision’s special Dynamic Light function is particularly impressive here: it dims the light until the interior is shrouded in darkness, then uses reflected light to highlight the interior contours with cinematic effect. The interactive real-time model even allows the user to try out the Mercedes smart parking assistant in a natural scenario by maneuvering the car into a virtual parking space. The application can also be remote-controlled – from a tablet, for example.
Making it happen: Pipeline principle makes for efficiency
The high-end visualization of an entire automobile is a highly complex challenge. Mackevision has the technological capability to generate photorealistic vehicle models with any desired degree of detail, either pre-rendered by CGI in classic fashion or in real time on the basis of CAD data. The Mercedes model, which was based on both CAD data and information from Product Data Management, consists of billions of data sets. In conjunction with the seamlessly integrated Configuration Backbone, this led to the creation of a master model. What is special about Mackevision’s pipeline concept is that such master models can be adapted across all channels for a variety applications on all kinds of different devices.
The economical pipeline principle , which allows multiple use of digital high-end content, proved its worth again in the Daimler project. The combination of high efficiency and professional know-how enabled the Mackevision team to complete the interactive real-time model of the E-Class in only a few weeks – just in time for the opening of the “Mercedes me” shop in Hamburg.