Nissan to roll out Microsoft Kinect-powered virtual showrooms across the U.S.


August 25, 2012

Nissan may expand the Kinect program to more dealerships and the Internet at large

Nissan may expand the Kinect program to more dealerships and the Internet at large

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A recent study of auto consumers performed by Maritz Research revealed that, despite the auto industry's growing use of social media and websites, the salesperson is still the most valuable source of car information for consumers. Nissan customers may soon sing a different tune with news the automaker is launching a new dealership feature based on Microsoft Kinect hardware and software that will allow customers to perform a virtual inspection of a given vehicle – even when the vehicle hasn't yet rolled off the assembly line.

While the aforementioned Maritz study found websites to be no more than a fourth-ranked source of information, that doesn't mean that people don't use them at all. Nissan says that more than 71 percent of all U.S. consumers use the Web to research brands and models. That research tends to end when they design their ideal model using online configuration tools. At that point, they go to the dealership to get more information and test drive their model(s) of choice.

The Kinect Experience leverages Kinect for Windows hardware and software toward allowing customers to "kick the (virtual) tires" of a Nissan model. They'll be able to bend down to check out the wheels, take a tour around the exterior, and step inside to get a feel for the interior's size, layout and equipment.

"Kicking the tires is a critical step in a consumer's car buying process," explains Jon Brancheau, vice president, Marketing, Nissan North America, Inc. People want to see the cars first. It's a visceral thing. See it. Touch it. Drive it. But what happens if the dealer doesn't have that "dream car" on the lot, or that car has not been produced yet? How many sales are left on the table when they can't put their customer in the desired car, and make the critical physical connection to close the deal?"

The program launches with a sneak preview of the recently detailed 2013 Pathfinder, which won't be available for physical test drives or purchases until the U.S. autumn. Sixteen Nissan dealerships in 13 different states across the U.S. are participating in the pilot program. Each dealership has a Pathfinder Kinect Experience kiosk equipped with a television and all the necessary hardware and software that is designed to allow potential buyers to closely inspect the Pathfinder despite the absence of the physical vehicle.

If you're wondering how the Kinect Experience is any different from the video and interactive tools that auto manufacturer's provide on the Web, Nissan's answer is that it's more interactive and intuitive with the Kinect's motion- and voice-activated interface providing a more accurate simulation of physically giving a car the ol' once over. Nissan mentions that customers will step back and forth and lean from side to side in order to gain access to different views and information. The video below provides a better idea of exactly how it works.

Nissan initially used Kinect hardware to show the Pathfinder at the Chicago and New York Auto Shows earlier this year and decided to launch the dealership pilot due to the positive response. The initial pilot program is focusing entirely on the self-contained dealership Kinect kiosks, so participants will still have to go to dealership for the experience. If the pilot is successful, Nissan could extend the technology to its 1,100 dealerships across the U.S., and there's even the possibility that the Kinect Experience could one day work its way into consumers' homes.

A full list of dealerships participating in the pilot can be found via the source link.

Source: Nissan

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work. All articles by C.C. Weiss

This is lame. The websites "interactive/360" views that they already have are the same thing, just without the hand gestures.

If they really want to make it feel like the car is there, then what they should do is use a 3D projector (one big enough) so then when you put on the glasses it looks like a REAL LIFE SIZE vehicle is sitting right in front of you. Then you could use the kinects motion tracking to track you hand so that when you place it on a door handle the door opens and follows your hand, or hood, trunk, etc.


I have just spent a bunch of time looking at a bunch of companies websites shopping for a vehicle. I noticed most manufacturers have a couple pictures of the insides of vehicles and only of the most loaded model. If I want to see what the seats look like inside the vehicle with 3rd row seating or what the inside of the vehicle looks like if I don't opt for in dash GPS and leather I am out of luck.

The GMC Acadia for instance has exactly 5 interior photos and 3 of them are pictures of LCD screens.

The Kinect demo sort of makes sense because there is no vehicle yet for people to look at but at the same time dealerships are generally not in the business of telling customers who showed up there to wait till next year before purchasing. It seems like a pretty small niche because for models that are in production by the time you are at a dealership you might as well stick your head inside a real one.

Personally, my online car buying experience would have been greatly improved just by having photos of different trim levels and options on the website.

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