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Innovation

Showroom of the future

The Intuitive Carfinder helps Volkswagen customers find the automobile of their dreams.

With the help of data glasses, customers dive into the virtual world.

An ocean sunset, cyclists in the city, a father hugging his daughter − Volkswagen is showing its customers video sequences with these and similar themes in what’s known as the Intuitive Carfinder. These are followed by three suggestions for vehicles suited to the customer. The showroom of the future celebrated its debut at the IAA in Frankfurt a couple of weeks ago.

The video sequences are based on virtual reality and artificial intelligence. The greeting comes from Optimus Prime, one of the main characters from the sci-fi film “Transformers.” Well, to be precise, it is spoken by his German voice. German movie fans will have already heard it often enough on the big screen. In the Intuitive Carfinder, though, the video runs on a special pair of glasses with an integrated screen, in combination with a headset that measures brain waves.

Ready? Ready! The video is 90 seconds long, and there’s not a single car in it. Thanks to the analysis, the visitors then find out which Volkswagen is the perfect fit for them: Arteon, e-Golf1, Polo, T-Roc, Tiguan Allspace, Touran, I.D. or I.D. Buzz? These eight models are the ones that the Intuitive Carfinder is currently familiar with. It “knows” which type of person needs what kind of technologies and functionalities for their everyday activities and hobbies. In addition, the Carfinder also lists suggestions for color and design.

»We can recommend the appropriate car based on which images elicited the strongest reactions.«

The individual sequences in the video each last about three seconds: the sunset, the cyclists, the family scene. “The headset measures which images trigger the strongest reactions,” explains Volkswagen employee Stefan Aust, who was responsible for the marketing communications at the IAA. Artificial intelligence (AI) controls the algorithm in the background. In other words: “emotional intelligence”. The Carfinder measures the spontaneous, intuitive reaction.

“We can recommend the appropriate car based on which images elicited the strongest reactions,” Aust says. For example, the I.D. Buzz would be the right car for those who respond positively to beaches and design. If the visitor reacts more strongly to visuals symbolic of environment and sustainability, but less so to progressive design, then they would be well-served by an e-Golf. The Tiguan is a recommendation for all customers whose hearts beat faster at seeing images that symbolize spaciousness and plenty of room.

As for the Arteon,it tests emotional intelligence stimuli like luxury, performance, and speed. For the Touran, the associations are suburbia, family, and safety. The Polo stands for urban, pragmatic younger drivers. People whose brain waves respond to the image of father and daughter could be candidates for the Polo, even if it is “only” intended for the daughter.

»The power of imagination gets virtual support thanks to the Carfinder.«

What will contact with customers look like in the future? How will the customer find his or her ideal car? Volkswagen went looking for answers to these questions. Work on the Carfinder started six months ago. “We want to show that we study innovative technologies every day in order to bring the future to series production,” says Stefan Aust, who is pleased with the newest project from his department.

A total of three-and-a-half months were needed to complete construction. The perfect armchair was also developed in the process. The Intuitive Carfinder celebrated its premiere at the IAA. From the eight models currently available, each visitor was presented with his/her top three cars. “Not every viewer says yes, that’s a perfect fit,” says Aust, “but that’s also not our goal. Above all, we want to provide ideas, ideas for discussions about the top three. Afterwards everyone wants to see the car that was recommended and try it out for size.”

The results and experiences at the IAA are now being evaluated in order to develop the AI further. Then the Intuitive Carfinder will be in action again soon and astonishing customers by telling them which car is the right one for them. “The power of imagination gets virtual support thanks to the Carfinder,” says Stefan Aust with a smile.