Many new car buyers face a similar dilemma: You want to customize a new car, but don't know if you'll like the maroon leather interior that looks great in the catalog but always seems too pimplike in person. Not wanting to make an expensive mistake, you go with the safe silver-and-black combo, just like everyone else.
Cater, a technology group funded by the European Commission, is working on software that could help shoppers customize with confidence.
Using virtual-reality technology, Cater is building a car customization application that helps customers picture more realistically, and spatially experience, what their configured vehicle will look like.
The system is based on a stereoscopic TV set that enables stereo vision using so-called shutter glasses, according to Cater's Web site. The relatively inexpensive virtual-reality system can be installed for between about 10,000 euros and 12,000 euros. The technology ideally will enable customers to make more informed customization choices and enable dealerships to offer a greater range of vehicles to the public without having to display them on the showroom floor.
For online shoppers, Cater has also developed a Web-based customization tool that takes into account a person's age, country of residence, gender, and image keyword (aggressive, sporty, sexy) when suggesting products.
Using the Cater system, customers would select a package and view how the products will look in the car from a variety of 3D angles. A Web-based demo of the product is available online, though only for PCs.