Chevrolet Blends Mobile and Desktop Augmented Reality at SXSW

· MARCH 12TH, 2010

Everyone has been talking about how this year's SXSW will be the "year of location" as Foursquare and Austin-based Gowalla go head-to-head in a location-based battle royale. Location, however, is not the only emerging technology that will be on display in Austin; American auto maker Chevrolet announced it will be debuting new augmented reality promotions at SXSW this year.


Festival attendees can download the Chevy iReveal application on the iPhone which will allow them to participate in a scavenger hunt-like game that blends augmented reality with location-based functions. A map in the application shows the location of Chevy vehicle promotions around Austin where users can "unlock" the ability to view 360-degree 3D models of the cars in an AR view using the phone's camera.

Using AR to promote vehicles with 3D models is nothing new, but this is one of the first versions to reach consumers on their phones. The automotive industry has been one of the leading areas pushing desktop webcam-based AR experiences that have allowed users to interact with 3D models of cars from their homes. This new promotion from Chevy is unique in that it allows customers to have the same experience on their iPhones.

According to the App Store, AR iPhone application developer acrossair has produced the application for Chevrolet. The interesting thing about this experience is the way it blends the dichotomous features of mobile and webcam-based AR. The 3D model manipulation we are used to seeing on the desktop is wisely mixed with the location-based map info seen in most mobile AR applications. By taking the best of both worlds, acrossair and Chevrolet have opened the door to a new breed of mobile AR advertisements.

Augmented reality isn't the only emerging technology Chevrolet is experimenting with at SXSW; quick response (QR) codes, which are like a technological cousin of AR, are a large part of the company's promotions as well. When investigating Chevrolet's latest cars, users can photograph QR codes placed strategically on the cars to learn more about specific parts of the car. A QR code placed on the hood, for example, will launch information about the car's engine. Christopher Barger, Director of Global Communications and Technology for General Motors, is excited about the future of QR codes and AR for the automotive industry.

"Imagine using Quick Response Codes to download the price and options for a vehicle on a dealer lot right to your cell phone. Or, imagine using augmented reality to virtually preview different colors of the Camaro in your own driveway," Barger says. "We are just scratching the surface of what's possible with mobile technologies and social media applications."

Chevrolet is also teaming up with Gowalla to provide location-based advertisements to people checking in at SXSW. One promotion they are offering is a shuttle ride from the airport in one of their new cars to select users that check in at the airport, so don't forget to fire up Gowalla when you land in Austin. For more information about mobile and desktop AR advertising, be sure to check out our report on the subject coming soon!


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