During the COVID-19 pandemic, customers learned new buying patterns—namely that products could be ordered online and delivered to their door. As such ecommerce has changed drastically in the past few years, and industries are being reimagined. Case in point: the automotive car buying experience.
“For most people, a car is the second biggest purchase they will ever make,” he says. “That process is not the most user friendly or customer centric. We believe, at Microsoft, along with our partners, we can help change that process.”
And that is exactly what Microsoft is doing, as it has partnered with other companies to launch a virtual showroom. In December, Touchcast launched an end-to-end customer experience in the metaverse, running on Microsoft Azure. The platform lets automotive manufacturers create a photo realistic digital twin of their showroom and display their vehicles. Here buyers can interact with an automotive expert, ask questions, explore new features, take a virtual test drive, buy their vehicle, and return for post-sales support.
In my discussion with Codio, he emphasized that Microsoft wants to ensure they build the right platform, as well as code, support, and create the right environment that can help facilitate and allow new companies to enter the market, leveraging the investment they made.
The first metaverse showroom powered by Touchcast is the FIAT Metaverse Store. The Metaverse Store demonstrates FIAT’s Product Genius—a real person—who is available to answer any customer question literally in realtime. FIAT’s completely immersive tool allows the recreation of a driving experience on board the New 500 La Prima by Bocelli on La Pista 500.
“FIAT launched the first virtual showroom, the first metaverse store, and they sold several cars already on that platform end-to-end,” Codio says. “A user can go online and complete the entire purchase experience of this new model online and end-to-end.”
The FIAT Metaverse Store can instantly transport the customer. Once inside, the Product Genius welcomes the customer, and together they can explore the car in 360-degree views and learn about its technology, address any questions about electric mobility, recharging, and any contents of the New 500. Furthermore, the customer can take a look up close at how the Infotainment and the different driving and EV (electric vehicle) charging modes work.
The client can also customize the model by choosing its body, color, interiors, and any other desired feature and literally see those changing in realtime.
Touchcast’s Metaverse-as-a-Service platform is built on Microsoft Azure and deployed through Microsoft Teams, granting access to the metaverse to customers without requiring avatars or specialized hardware. Touchcast renders a live video feed of a sales representative into the sales environment.
Additionally, AI (artificial intelligence) from Azure Cognitive Services scaffolds the Touchcast metaverse experience and can recognize when a keyword or phrase is spoken aloud. One mention of ‘EV charging’ or ‘safety features’ automatically pivots the demonstration to show key features in action.
This is simply one example of how the metaverse will recreate industries. Codio suggests it will also provide other applications in transportation, travel, rail, and manufacturing, just to name a few—all while helping to reduce the carbon footprint.
He says, “As you can imagine, the metaverse is still a nascent environment, but we believe the investment we have been making the last 14-15 years from what you see with HoloLens and with Mesh for Teams and all the key platform components and services that we built, we believe this is the kind of investment that is needed from an industry perspective to help a smaller company like Touchcast to jump in and build a platform that can help a customer like FIAT to build this beautiful experience that you can see online.”
All this and more is on display this week at the 2023 Intl. CES in the West Hall If you want to see it yourself. What are your thoughts of the metaverse? Will your fleets be purchased in the metaverse?
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