Toyota pushes Corolla with virtual singer app

Virtual star Hatsune Miku provides an "augmented reality experience" for prospective Toyota buyers.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
Virtual star Hatsune Miku pops up in a Toyota shopping app. Metaio

If you're shopping for a car, would a virtual 3D girl sway you?

Japanese digital pop star Hatsune Miku is appearing in an augmented reality app to promote the Toyota Corolla, and the automaker is hoping her cartoon charms will win the hearts of shoppers.

Created in 2007 by Crypton Future Media using Yamaha's Vocaloid software, Hatsune Miku allows users to create their own songs by inputting lyrics and a melody.

The anime-style mascot girl, however, has become an online sensation, generating a large fan base, performing in concerts with a live band, and recently hawking Corollas in a series of Toyota ads.

The augmented-reality (AR) feature by software developer Metaio is part of the Toyota Shopping Tool, an app that lets buyers download and share content about Toyota vehicles.

Users can print out a circular "AR stage" that acts as a 2D barcode. When they view it through the Toyota Shopping Tool on a smartphone, the blue-haired singer, in miniature, performs along with a cartoon version of the popular compact.

I would have preferred a giant Hatsune like in the ad below, but passionate "otaku" fans have no doubt made the Corolla their official car.

Didn't human celebs shill for automakers long ago?