Blippar Announces AR Ad Unit & Visual Search For Cars

What Happened
Augmented reality solution provider Blippar announced two big additions to its platform. First up, the company is ready to launch what it claims to be “the first AR digital ad unit” that doesn’t require an app. This new ad product, named Augmented Reality Digital Placement (ARDP), will work with standard rich media banner ad units. Upon clicking, it would open a web-view window that, after users grant permission to access the camera, can superimpose ad creatives over the environment that the camera captures, and is viewable in 360-degree view. The creatives can be 3D models or static cut-outs from a 360-degree video. 

Secondly, Blippar is adding a “Shazam-for-cars” feature to its free mobile app that allows users to identify the make, model, and year of any U.S. car made since 2000 simply by pointing their camera at the car. The app will then surface relevant content such as average customer rating, price, a 360-degree view of the car’s interior. Blippar says it has achieved over 97.7% accuracy in automotive recognition, making it the highest in the industry. With this launch, the company is releasing a Car Recognition API that is available globally for companies to license and integrate into their own apps and products.

What Brands Need To Do
Although the AR experience delivered by ARDP seems to be pretty rough and limited in functions according to Blippar’s demo video, it is nevertheless an exciting development that marks the commence of the AR advertising arm’s race. The fact that this AR experience doesn’t require any specific app to run is obviously a plus for the potential reach of this ad unit. Mobile-based AR is a great way for brands to deliver interactive content and feature to drive active engagement and showcase products, and AR ads would be a great tool for brands looking to enhance their mobile ad experience.

For auto brands, the car-recognition feature and its API should be a great tool to transform any ordinary environment into a virtual showroom. It would be a great tool for event activations, pop-up promotions, and engaging car enthusiasts. According to CEO Rish Mitra, the company is working to expand this visual search feature to cover more sectors, with fashion being its next target.

For more information on how brands may tap into the rapid development in AR to create engaging customer experiences, please check out the Advanced Interfaces section of our Outlook 2017.


Sources: MarTech Today & TechCrunch

Featured image courtesy of Blippar

Ford Tests Automated Kiosks For 24/7 Vehicle Drop-Off Service

What Happened
Ford is working with Panasonic and GoMoto, a company that specializes in car dealership technologies, to create Smart Service Kiosks that allow car owners to drop off their vehicles for repairs or basic maintenance tasks like alignment, oil changes, and inspections without having to talk to anyone. Once the dealership is finished with the tasks, owners will get an email alert to pick up their cars and pay the costs at the kiosks. The service will begin as a 90-day trial at a Ford dealership in Birch Run, Michigan.

What Brands Need To Do
This automated kiosk from Ford is a notable attempt to digitize the off-hour drop off service that some dealerships already offer. Essentially an ATM machine for car maintenance and repair services, the kiosk simplifies the process and modernizes the customer experience for car maintainance. By creating a digital interface for this service in the form of an automated kiosk enables users to manage their repair services and receive updates on their mobile devices, allowing Ford to establish a new digital touch point to reach customers for post-sale engagements. More brands should consider creating such digital tools to enhance their services or physical store experiences.


Source: Engadget

CES 2017 Day 2: Nissan To Put Cortana In Cars, Plus More Auto News

For the last keynote session of the day, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, along with several other Nissan executives, took the CES stage to reveal their new Nissan Intelligent Mobility initiative, demoed a new concept car with Cortana Integration, and filled us in on its plan for developing autonomous vehicles.

First up, Nissan introduced its Intelligent Mobility initiative dedicated to developing self-driving electric vehicles that aim for “zero emissions” and “zero fatalities.” Part of that initiative is a workaround solution called Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM) for the first generation of self-driving cars, which connects the smart vehicles to a command center, where a human manager can help autonomous cars navigate road situations their software may not be able to handle. The SAM system will then learn how the human managers solve certain situations, apply those solutions for similar future scenarios, and broadcast them to other cars within the system.

Nissan-Intelligence-MobilityThe company went on to announce that it will equip the next generation of its best-selling electric model LEAF with the semi-autonomous ProPilot system, currently used in the Japanese-market Nissan Sirena. It also announced a partnership with Japanese ecommerce company DeNA to test driverless commercial vehicles as it hopes to launch a driverless mobility service in Tokyo by 2020.

The showiest part of the keynote was when Nissan demoed a concept car that held a decent back-and-forth conversation with its owner, thanks to an integration with Microsoft’s Cortana. Building on the partnership between Microsoft and Renault-Nissan Alliance, Nissan is aiming to bring AI-powered voice command into its vehicles for a safer, more intuitive driving experience.   

Nissan-CortanaBut Nissan isn’t the only carmaker that’s putting Cortana in their cars. Earlier today, BMW also announced that it will be integrating Microsoft’s voice assistant service into its new models. On a bigger picture, Ford officially became the first auto brand to bring in-car voice assistant to market as it enabled all existing vehicles running the Ford Sync 3 software to connect with Amazon’s Alexa with an over-the-air update.

The competitive race of developing autonomous cars is particularly palpable at this year’s CES, with all major carmakers and some tech companies like Harman and NVIDIA showcasing some sort of driverless concept models and announcing plans to accelerate their self-driving car developments. Hyundai started hosting test drive of its driverless concept car Ioniq for press earlier today, while Honda unveiled a futuristic-looking autonomous concept vehicle named NeuV that is designed for ride-sharing services. BWM announced today that it is working with Intel and Mobileyes to start testing a fleet of 40 self-driving vehicles on the roads in the United States and Europe.

As we’ve repeatedly noted, this wave of self-driving innovation is set to bring a seismic change to the auto and transportation industries. And the arrival of self-driving cars will free up a significant amount of time spent on driving into potential media time that brands should get ready to fight over. Judging by the announcements coming out of CES, voice-activated conversational interface is set to play a major role in the future of in-car media, and it is never too early for brands start preparing for that inevitable future, especially given the quickening pace of development in self-driving cars.


Volkswagen Spins Off Ride-Sharing And Self-Driving Cars To New Company

What Happened
Volkswagen is getting serious about building ride-hailing and autonomous vehicles as the German auto giant announced the launch of a spinoff company that focuses on “new mobility solutions.” The new standalone company, Moia, is based in Berlin and will soon start testing some of Volkswagen’s ride-sharing and car-sharing programs there. The company says it aims to generate “a significant share” of its sale revenue from the Moia services by 2025.

Why Brands Should Care
Besides Volkswagen, major automakers like Ford and General Motors have also been launching car-sharing services or partnering with Uber or Lyft to restructure its revenue streams, cash in on the rise of on-demand car services, and prepare for a not-too-distant future where consumers choose on-demand ride-sharing and carsharing services over private car ownerships. As development in this area ramps up, more and more consumers will soon become addressable as they ditch the steering wheels for the backseats, and brands will have to explore new partnerships and ad opportunities, such as Uber’s Trip Experiences, to capitalize on the consumer attention freed from driving.


Source: TechCrunch

Google Updates Android Auto With “OK Google” Voice Command

What Happened
Android users will soon be able to activate their in-car infotainment system by saying “OK Google,” the same hot-word command used for Google Home and Pixel phones, as the search giant start rolling out voice command to Android Auto. With supported models, drivers will be able to get directions, check the weather, or change their music hands-free, which makes for a safer, more convenient driving experience. In addition, the updated Android Auto app also comes with a streamlined interface for driving and the options to have your incoming text messages read aloud and to respond to them using voice.

Why Brands Should Care
Compared to Apple, which added Siri support to its CarPlay in August 2015 and updated in-car Siri features this June, Google may seem a bit behind in introducing its digital assistant service into cars. Nevertheless, now with this Android Auto update, more car owners will get to interact with their in-car infotainment system in a conversational manner.

Besides Google and Apple, auto brands are also actively pursuing the potential of in-car conversational interfaces. For instance, Hyundai became the first auto brand to integrate with Amazon’s voice-based digital assistant service Alexa this summer. As more and more consumers become familiarized with the type of voice-based interfaces, brands will need to seize the initiative to navigate the emerging opportunities and challenges of the changing forms of digital interaction.


Source: The Verge

Ansible And IPG Media Lab Launch NiroBot On Messenger To Introduce New Kia Model

Kia Motors America (KMA) on Thursday launched NiroBot, a chatbot for Facebook Messenger, to deliver instant access to comprehensive product information about the all-new 2017 Niro hybrid utility vehicle, making it among the first automotive brands in the U.S. to utilize Facebook Messenger.

Developed and implemented by Ansible, KMA’s agency partner, in collaboration with IPG Media Lab, the NiroBot aims to introduce consumers to the new model through automated, engaging conversations. You can start chatting with the NiroBot yourself to get an hands-on experience with this next-gen customer engagement tool by clicking here.

The NiroBot is packed with helpful features and eye-catching visual designs, including full-screen galleries, guided vehicle discovery, rich product specification menus, deep linking to, expansive technical information regarding the vehicle, step-by-step tutorials, and test drive scheduling calendars on a user-friendly interface. Additionally, the NiroBot can connect the user to a live Kia representative at any time during the chat.


Besides its comprehensive product-related functions, the NiroBot also comes with a charming personality that is designed to optimize the chat experience. It can tell jokes, offer witty answers to some driving-related questions, and greet customers with various phrases depending on the time of the day. These touches of personality truly elevate the experience and make the NiroBot fun to chat with.

Facebook Messenger is used by more than one billion consumers worldwide monthly, and those accessing the NiroBot for Messenger will benefit from comprehensive product information, multimedia product overviews and the ability to schedule a test drive of the first Kia vehicle to make use of an all-new, dedicated eco-car platform.

As consumer habits shifts, more and more customers are opting to communicate with brands on social and chat apps. Therefore, it is imperative that brands follow their audiences and look into ways to connect with them on those messaging platforms.

The Media Lab and Ansible have considerable experience with building chatbots and working with brands to apply conversational experiences to marketing. The One Direction fan experience The Lab developed for Sony Music on messaging app Kik earned a Smarties Award from the Mobile Marketing Association.

Please get in touch with the Lab’s Client Services Director Samantha Holland ([email protected]) or Ansible’s Account Director Merrell Middleton ([email protected]) if you’d like more information or have a client opportunity.


Source: PressWire

Hyundai Extends Alexa Integration To Its Connected Car App

What Happened
Back in August, Hyundai became the first mainstream auto brand to integrate with Amazon’s digital assistant service with an Alexa skill for its Genesis models. Now, the South Korean automaker is extending the Alexa integration to all Hyundai models compatible with its Blue Link connected car app. With this expansion, Hyundai owners can now ask Alexa to carry out most of the remote control functions that Blue Link app serves, such as starting/stopping the car, setting in-car AC temperatures, and locking/unlocking the doors.

In related news, Hyundai is also teaming up with a car-sharing startup WaiveCar for an ad-supported car sharing pilot program in L.A. that allows interested consumers to drive the IONIQ, Hyundai’s first electric vehicle, for free.

What Brands Should Do
With this Alexa integration, Hyundai has found a way to plug their connected cars into the smart home space and open up new possibilities for them to connect with customers at home. As automakers experiment with smart home device connectivity to expand the reach of their services, other brands should take note and start exploring this space to reach customers at home as well.

The Lab has extensive experience with building Alexa skills and helping brands navigate the new realities that conversational interfaces are set to bring. If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out and schedule a visit to the Lab.


Source: Engadget & TechCrunch

How Infiniti Visualized Customer Response To Its New Cars

What Happened
Japanese auto brand Infiniti wanted to show people how exciting their new models are, so it leveraged biometric tracking for an innovative event activation at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance auto show last week. Visitors to the Infiniti Pavilion received an armband that tracked their physiological reactions like muscle cell electrical activity toward the new cars on exhibition. Also, the armbands were connected to various sensors installed in the cars and throughout the Infiniti Pavilion to map out how long attendees checked out the new models. The data was then graphed and projected on a giant LED display to showcase the enthusiasm of potential buyers.

What Brands Need To Do
This use case of biometric data showcases an interesting way for brands to incorporate wearables into event activations. It offers a cool way to visualize the enthusiasm of event goers, attract and entertain onlookers, and collect data about what potential buyers are most interested in. Other brands seeking ways to infuse their events with a little digital fun should take a cue from Infiniti and explore what wearable tech can add to brand activations.


Source: Digiday


Uber To Unleash Fleet Of Driverless Cars In Pittsburgh For Free Rides

What Happened
Uber is set to unleash a fleet of self-driving cars to pick up passengers on the streets of Pittsburgh this month. In partnership with Volvo, the autonomous fleet will consist of specially modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles supervised by humans in the drivers’ seats. Starting later this month, Uber will match customers in downtown Pittsburgh to driverless cars at random, and the trips will be free for the time being.

Why Brands Should Care
This impending launch marks an important milestone in the development of driverless cars, as  no automotive or technology company has yet to bring autonomous cars so close to the mass consumer market. Recently, major automakers such as Ford and BMW have announced their plans for putting driverless cars on the road in the next five years. Volvo is also partnering with Uber on a $300M program to develop fully autonomous vehicles by 2021. All things considered, we may be not too far from riding in self-driving cars.

The development in autonomous cars is an important market trend that The Lab looks out for (and included in the 2020 section of our Outlook 2016) because of the incredible amount of media time it could free up. The average daily commute time in the States is currently about 50 minutes. When driverless cars are adopted by mainstream car-owners, it would make it possible for media owners and advertisers to visually connect with consumers on the go through in-car media such as digital video and video gaming.


Source: Bloomberg

How Ford Leverages Fashion Partnerships To Promote Fusion

What Happened
Ford is looking outside the auto industry to promote its Fusion model. The company launched the Fusion Labs workshop in June and partnered with two sustainable fashion labels, 69 Denim and RTA Crew and Collective, to sell branded fashion products and drive home the eco-friendly message of the Fusion model. 69 Denim will also donate “upcycled” denim materials to be used as insulation in the cars’ sound systems. Ford has previously worked with other fashion companies such as Rent the Runway and Vogue.

What Auto Brands Need To Do
Ford is not the only auto maker trying to catch customers’ eyes with fashion partnerships. Earlier this year, Cadillac teamed up with the Council of Fashion Designers of America for the launch of the Retail Lab initiative, aiming to elevate its brand and appeal to the upscale luxury market. Due to the fragmentation of media attention and the rise of ad blocking, it is becoming increasingly difficult for car companies to reach potential buyers via traditional ads. Therefore, auto brands should take a cue from Ford and Cadillac and consider branching out to partner with compatible brands in other industries in order to develop a unique marketing hook that captures consumer attention.


Source: Glossy