Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Virtual Prime

Toyota has debuted a new exhibit of sorts for the Prius Prime. The debut, at Tech Crunch Disrupt SF16, started yesterday. And once you know all the details, this may seem like an enormous expense for one event. Toyota is not above doing things like. It also seems entirely reasonable that this exhibit will likely travel the country helping to intro the Prime to America.
So the demo comes in two parts. In first part you create a 3D environment using software something similar to Tilt Brush. Wait, what is Tilt Brush you ask? It's this...
But they didn't end up using Tilt Brush because the artwork wouldn't export into their VR driving environment so, Toyota's perennial ad agency Saatchi&Saatchi used something else. The article isn't clear but it may be something Saatchi developed themselves. Either way, it's easier to use than Tilt Brush according to the story and, the main point, exportable. I've included the Tilt Brush video just to give you and idea of what it is if you're not already familiar with it.

The larger part of this is a driving simulator which include an immersive 3D environment and motorized seats which track the motion of the video. Some of the visual elements during the drive portion were created by legendary industrial designer Syd Mead. Make no mistake, this is pulling out a very big gun. Mead has been a go-to futurist designer for decades (Mead is now 83). He designed the Spinners in Blade Runner and the vehicles in the first Tron movie (and lots more). Yeah, that guy.

Mead's work speaks for itself and there's no doubt that this driving sim will be exciting. You can tell that from the Tech Crunch piece though I thought this was interesting...
Overall, it’s an interesting experiment in marketing and immersive narrative, but one that still leaves me thinking we still have a long way to go before we get to a place where the average VR storytelling experience is enjoyable for most.
I get the feeling the writer was a little more wowed than he wanted to be.

In the end, it's clear Toyota USA is serious about making statements with the Prime which, if I put on my skeptic hat for a minute, might be better made in the vehicle itself than in creating a marketing environment to show it off. But yes, that's a little too brutal, no matter what, Toyota has to spend money telling the story, educating customers on why Prime is so important. I'm looking forward to a chance to drive Prime myself and tell its story in my own way. Look for that here sometime in the near future.