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Automotive industry embraces Kinect

Toyota's Smart Insect prototype uses Kinect to create a better passenger experience

Some of the biggest players in automotive have been demonstrating Kinect applications, which have the potential to transform both the way they sell and market their cars, as well as the in-car passenger experience.

Toyota is one manufacturer that is embracing the technology, using it in the on-board motion sensors of its new Smart Insect prototype. The Kinect sensors will recognise when the driver is approaching the vehicle and open the door, depending on which side they are coming from. Once inside the technology driven cockpit, a whole slew of features can connect the customer to navigation, audio, and even connect to the driver’s home using the smartphone connection to unlock doors and change the air conditioning.

Toyota is also using Kinect technology at its stand at the LA Auto Show Advanced Technology Showcase, which is taking place in Los Angeles until December 9th. Here the manufacturer is letting customers get to grips with the Toyota Prius via an Xbox Kinect interactive video game whereby customers can look around the car and the cockpit, run to the car, and even virtually drive it.

Both Kia Motors and Jaguar Land Rover have also been using Kinect technology to showcase their vehicles at the same event. Jaguar Land Rover's Virtual Experience creates a near-life-sized, high-resolution rendering of vehicle models. The customer chooses the model and options using a touch pad, and the system shows a nearly 1:1 video representation of the vehicle on a large display. The customer can then explore the interior and exterior with a few natural points and gestures.

All this comes after Nissan debuted the 2013 Pathfinder via Kinect technology at this year’s New York and Chicago auto shows, instead of showcasing the physical car, which wouldn’t begin production until later. Using Kinect’s motion-sensing capabilities, Nissan was able to track gestures, and allow users to explore the 2013 Pathfinder’s interior and exterior through a series of specific movements, including extension of the hands, stepping forward and backward, and leaning side to side.

The Pathfinder Kinect Experience has since been rolled out to 16 Nissan dealerships in 13 states. Each dealer was equipped with a Windows-based computer, TV, Kinect kiosk, and all hardware and software necessary for the install. Nissan says this pilot program paves the way for broader use of the virtual showroom technology and, if it’s successful, the automaker may expand the Kinect-based experience to its 1100 US dealerships.

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