Over the last three years, the team at EVOX Images and its sister company RelayCars have been working on their line of virtual reality products for automotive, an industry that could be ripe for such technology.
With social media players like Facebook and Google as well as hardware providers like Sony, Microsoft, Apple and Samsung getting into the VR space, “we knew that content was going to be something that was going to be extremely important,” said Gina Callari, who talked with AuSM shortly after being named chief operating officer of both companies in August.
“If you look into health care, you look into retail, all of those types of industries are already creating content for those platforms,” Callari said, “and we at that moment thought, ‘What a great way to get automotive out there as well.’”
That’s part of her plan as COO.
Callari, who was previously vice president of operations, says her goal is to, “bring all that innovation to market by being more customer focused and keeping us the leaders in this space.”
More background on companies, new COO
EVOX provides on-demand large-scale global image creation solutions and specializes on automotive VR and 360-degree images.
RelayCars provides a suite of VR apps that let both consumers and businesses check out vehicle interiors on their smartphone or tablet, through the Web or on a VR headset. Callari has been with RelayCars from Day 1 and joined EVOX in 2014.
“As COO, Callari will be at the helm as the company evolves its RelayCars business as a sister company of EVOX Images,” EVOX chief executive officer David Falstrup said in an August news release when the promotion was made.
He later added: “We have a strong belief she will accomplish the mission of moving both EVOX Images and RelayCars forward by getting closer to our customer base and understanding their needs. We have confidence that Gina will successfully bring to the market the range of new and exciting products we have spent years developing.”
Callari’s background includes more than a decade with the Los Angeles Auto Show, where she led the support team and logistics, while managing cross-functional teams and working on the Houston Auto Show, as well. She also has leadership experience with Petersen Publishing and Edmunds.com – including her role as managing editor of the latter.
‘Quicker, more complete shopping experience’
During the interview, Callari agreed with the notion that the growth of online car-buying presents more opportunities for VR and 360-degree imaging in the automotive space.
She points out the consumer demand for a “quicker, more complete shopping experience” from start to finish.
Callari cited a yet-to-be-published survey (at the time) indicating that consumers research for five weeks before arrival at the dealership, meaning most of that research process happens online.
“So, if we can enhance those experiences with our dealers to get those consumers in the driver’s seat virtually, that’s something that we think is a huge advantage for our dealerships and for our consumers,” Callari said.
So what role could virtual reality have in automotive five or 10 years down the road?
While that can be tricky to project exactly, it likely is on its way to becoming a rapidly developing sector, she said,
“It’s a difficult thing to predict. But to be quite honest with you, the way that virtual reality market is going and, in fact, the whole XR (segment) — so the industry right now is calling that whole movement ‘XR,’ and underneath that umbrella you have virtual reality, you have augmented reality, mixed reality and even AI, for that matter — and I think what’s happening is that VR is slated to be one of the fastest growing industries within the next five years.
“They’re predicting an annual growth rates averaging about 118 percent,” Callari said. “So these technologies will have strong impacts across multiple industries from entertainment to retail to science and even automotive.”
Improving car-buying experience
That being the case, what makes the latter so attractive to VR?
The answer goes back to the “quicker, more complete shopping experience” demanded by consumers, Callari said.
“And so, I think what they’re going to start doing is taking the same online shopping habits, and they’re going to transition those to automotive and their car-buying experience,” she said. “You look at the millennials today, and you’re starting to notice that dealerships are having a hard time getting those consumers onto the dealer lot, so this is a way for car shoppers to actually experience the vehicles remotely before having to actually step foot on a dealer lot to make that purchase.”
EVOX and RelayCars aim to help dealers improve the car-shopping experience. And the future could include some kind of augmentation to that experience.
Given that the experience at the dealership can sometimes have room for improvement, “what we’re trying to do is really help our dealers to come up with a solution to make that car shopping experience better for their customers,” Callari said. “And I think that, moving down the road, whether it be augmented reality or whether it be complete immersion such as virtual reality, people are going to start adding this type of experience to their regular online shopping.”