It seems good old fashioned reality just isn’t good enough for today’s tech savvy car shoppers. Hyundai’s Genesis luxury brand is adding augmented reality to the mix to help reinvent the large – and largely ignored – owner’s manual.
For the uninitiated, augmented reality is techno-wizardry that superimposes a computer-generated image over a user’s view of the real world, typically via either a smartphone or tablet computer. For example, various apps already let users hold up their devices to view the night skies with stars and constellations identified in pop-up boxes within the image.
Here, the new Genesis Virtual Guide, a free download for iPhone and Android-based devices, leverages 2-D and 3-D tracking technology to make looking up how a particular system or function operates as easy as point-and-click. The app includes 135 how-to videos and 25 3-D overlay images that pop up on a device’s screen when the forward-facing camera is focused on a particular spot within the car’s engine bay or interior, along the exterior, or on the dashboard’s instrument panel.
For example, aiming the smartphone or tablet’s camera at a specific area of the engine compartment will display pertinent maintenance information; a “button scanner” feature identifies and explains key control functions on the dashboard.
“The Virtual Guide is going to wow our owners,” says Erwin Raphael, general manager of Genesis’ U.S. operations. “It takes hundreds of pages of information and puts it on a device we know consumers touch all day long – their smartphone. And most of the content is in the form of videos, which we also know is the preferred method for consumers to digest information today.”
The Genesis Virtual Guide also includes a full digital copy of the actual owner’s manual, which we would assume would once again make a car’s glovebox available for something more than housing a three- or four-inch-thick library of booklets. Like gloves, maybe? What’s more, unlike many cars’ infotainment features which tend to be locked out while driving to minimize distractions, the Genesis Virtual Guide can be accessed (hopefully by a passenger) while the vehicle is moving.
It probably won’t be long before cars incorporate more-sophisticated augmented reality systems that project pertinent information about the world around them onto a vehicle’s windshield – including we would expect a mind-numbing number of ads for local businesses on or nearby the driving route. This would be an expanded version of today’s automotive head-up displays that show vehicle speed, navigation directions, and other information in the driver’s line of sight.
Several automakers, including Hyundai, already use smartphone apps to, among other things, monitor their cars’ systems, provide maintenance reminders, start and unlock their vehicles remotely, and/or keep tabs on teen drivers, but as far as we know, the Genesis Virtual Guide is the first to incorporate augmented reality. Unfortunately for current Genesis owners, and those who purchased the current G80 and G90 prior to 2017 when they were sold as the Hyundai Genesis and Equus, respectively, the app will only be compatible with 2018 models when it debuts later this year.
As it is, Genesis is at the head of the pack when it comes to leading edge connectivity, with its cars already offering both smartwatch and Amazon Alexa integration. It’s not the first brand to digitize the owner’s manual, however. BMW packs a digital version of their owners’ manuals within its iDrive infotainment system, which is handy enough unless the reason one is consulting it is to figure out how to use the joystick- and menu-based iDrive in the first place.