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Virtual reality is the new buzzword term in technology, and with headsets like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift readily accessible, Audi has spent the last three years working on a dealership-ready customer experience that dives into the virtual.

Demonstrated at the 2016 Audi Tech Day in Munich, the large-scale virtual reality unit uses a tracked area measuring around five metres square, along with a HTC Vive headset to allow a 360-degree virtual reality experience.

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When donning the goggles, the operator can select the car, the colour and any of its configurable options and drop the car into a preset area. Some of these areas include Iceland, Paris – and even the moon.

From there, the user can walk around the car and even look through its panels to see the inner workings. We used an Audi RS6 Avant as our example and were able to look through the alloy wheels and see the internal construct of the vehicle’s brakes.

A smaller version of the same system has also been produced that offers more portability and gives customers the chance to use virtual reality within the confines of a car’s interior while sitting down. They can look around the car and see exactly how their configured vehicle will look.

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In terms of the technology involved, the virtual reality headset runs at a resolution of 1080×1200 pixels, with a response time of under 20ms.

The constructed Audi world has six million polygon counts, meaning that it requires a powerful PC to render the environment. To put that into perspective, it’s around 2-3 times that of a high-end video game.

Marcus Kuhne, Audi head of digital retail solutions, told CarAdvice that he is excited for what the future has in store.

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“We have used a mix of third party and internal development to deliver this project. The seated experience [looking at the car’s interior] will be the perfect addition to a dealership environment for a customer, while the larger experience will be even more immersive,” said Kuhne.

“This won’t replace a test drive or the dealership user experience, but it will complement it,” said Kuhne.

It’s some seriously cool technology and could also come in handy for after sales with a potential for the system to be used for training and troubleshooting.

Audi is rolling the system out to six pilot dealerships initially with final development expected to take another two years.

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