New Ford virtual reality app puts viewers at Le Mans

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Couldn’t make it to France to watch the Ford GT win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June? Don’t worry, Ford can take you there — virtually, at least.

The Dearborn automaker on Wednesday officially launched a new virtual reality app for Apple and Android cellphones that gives viewers a 360-degree view of the Le Mans racetrack in France. After downloading the “FordVR” app, viewers can use their smartphones — or a cardboard headset — to virtually immerse themselves at the race through an eight-minute narrated video that puts them in the passenger seat of the GT, in the Ford Performance garage and on pit row.

Ford plans to expand the app to tell stories about its other vehicles. This September, it will come out with a similar video on the Focus RS, and in the future could include features on Ford Smart Mobility and its quest to build autonomous cars.

“We are very excited about this opportunity to provide truly immersive experiences that showcase the best of Ford Motor Company,” Lisa Schoder, Ford digital marketing manager, said in a statement. “Our virtual reality platform allows us to tell dramatic, impactful stories, to show a surprising side of Ford.”

Ford partnered with Tool of North America to create the app with 360-degree views.

Virtual reality is becoming more prevalent in the auto industry. Ford uses the technology to help design cars, and some startups are working on apps that create virtual reality showrooms where customers can buy or test drive vehicles without leaving their couch.

Fiat Chrysler recently unveiled a prototype of an “augmented reality” sales app designed and built by Accenture Digital. The program allows car buyers to hold a smartphone or other device up wherever they may be and a Fiat 500 appears on the screen. They can walk around, look inside and configure a life-size car.

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