BMW, the German luxury carmaker whose U.S. sales have declined 3.2% this year to 271,432 vehicles, released an iOS version of its mobile app that lets iPhone and iPad users inspect cars using augmented reality (AR), the technology that overlays digital images on a real background seen through a mobile camera, according to Robb Report.
The “i Visualizer” acts as a virtual showroom for BMW’s “i” line of vehicles — including the i3, i3S and i8 — that lets mobile users inspect a life-size virtual representation of the car. Tire-kickers can instantly change the color of the car and features such as the wheel rims, inspect the trunk size and get a 360-degree view of the car’s interior.
The app’s description page in the App Store recommends that users find a well-lit area, but without direct sunlight, that’s big enough to fit a car to get a better idea of how the car looks against a real background. The app is available in 21 languages and 17 markets, with more to be added in the future.
BMW originally created its i Visualizer app for Google’s advanced AR platform called Tango, which wasn’t popular among device makers because it required additional sensor hardware. Apple’s introduction of ARKit last summer put software tools into the hands of developers to add AR features to their apps, and reach the tech giant’s massive user base. BMW is now among the companies that are embracing AR technology to show off its car models.
The app has a limited ability to configure all the features of a car, but it does let smartphone users “jump” to a mobile browser to the BMW website to add more features and complete the configuration, per its description page.
Last month, BMW partnered with Snapchat to test the image-messaging app’s first AR ad, Digital Trends reported. The AR ad was an extension of Snapchat’s World Lens ad format, which also overlays digital images onto a real background. The ad featured BMW’s model X2, letting users see an image of the car in real surroundings and change the color with the tap of a smartphone screen.