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Ford revs up virtual reality expertise for mobile storytelling app

Ford is putting its storytelling initiatives into first gear with the rollout of a virtual reality application, which enables users to access content that showcases the manufacturer?s GT vehicle and brings the exhilarating experience of attending an auto race to mobile.

The Ford VR app, which is now available for Android and iOS users in the United States, was designed to extend the car manufacturer?s storytelling platform and help fans experience its innovations on a new level. The first available story lets users virtually attend an auto race and interact with the Ford GT vehicle.

?Ford is no stranger to using VR technology,? said Lisa Schoder, digital marketing manager at Ford. ?For years, we have embraced VR as a tool in our product development and manufacturing research.

?Now, VR has emerged as an exciting consumer-facing medium to bring stories to life. Knowing this, we wanted to create a new entry point for tech-savvy consumers to experience Ford innovations and the surprising side of our brand.?

Driving up mobile engagement
The Ford VR app allows users to indicate whether they would like to experience its content via their smartphones or a VR headset. If they select the latter, they may slide their mobile devices into the viewer.

Ford will periodically refresh the app with new stories, giving fans more incentive to regularly engage with it. The first piece of VR content details the Ford GT?s comeback to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the oldest annual active sports car competition for endurance racing that takes place in France.

The Ford GT enjoyed its first victory at the race 50 years ago, and scored another at this year?s competition, helped in part by the Ford EcoBoost engine.

The Ford VR app brings users trackside at the race in the eight-minute mobile video. Once the virtual story loads, consumers are asked to rotate their smartphones and choose their preferred viewing method to begin watching.

Those who choose to watch via their mobile devices are encouraged to plug in their headphones for the most optimal experience. Viewers may then begin rotating their smartphones to experience all of the 360-degree content, which centers on preparing the Ford GT vehicle for the race.

An audio component educates individuals on the history of the race and the GT model.

Users can pause or replay the video at any time, as well as share it by downloading a clickable link to send to friends. Fans may also access the gallery to check whether new content has been posted.

Ford?s next story, starring Hoonigan Racing?s Ken Block and the Ford Focus RS RX, is set to debut in September. Consumers can opt in to receive push notifications from the Ford VR app to ensure they do not miss the content when it goes live.

The Ford VR app was developed in partnership with integrated production company Tool of North America.

Mobile in the front seat
Ford?s new app arrives on the heels of a slew of mobile-first initiatives undertaken by the vehicle manufacturer to reach younger demographics and streamline driving experiences.

Ford recently moved forward with a shuttle service program that allows users to request a ride via an app, which will arrive soon at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, prompting the start of a collaboration that will focus on improving public transportation (see story).

Additionally, a Ford executive at Forrester?s CXNYC 2016 discussed how FordPass, the automaker's digital platform and application, is delivering convenience with a one-stop approach for drivers that has already seen more than 40,000 registrations in just six weeks (see story).

If the brand?s virtual reality app sees high install numbers and long in-app session engagement, it could prompt other vehicle manufacturers to delve deeper into the VR realm and showcase their new models in a more mobile-friendly manner.

Ford also plans to leverage the app to shed insight on other automotive-related subjects.

?While we are launching with virtual reality stories featuring Ford Performance products, we are looking forward to bringing to life stories about other important topics such as Ford Smart Mobility,? Ms. Schoder said.

?Global mobility issues may not be top of mind for those not affected personally,? she said. ?As we transition from an auto company to an auto and a mobility company, Ford VR will be an important tool in taking people on the journey with us to give them a deeper understanding of why Ford is taking a leadership role in this space.?