A number of automobile dealers use the RICOH THETA to boost car sales. As automobile dealers focus on high-volume sales with competitive margins, they need to partner with a THETA developer to implement a system that provides a complete workflow.
Black Widow System by 3i Auto-Shot
3i Auto-Shot builds the Black Widow system to provide dealers an end-to-end solution for high-volume marketing of cars with 360 shots of the interior. The system uses a desktop computer and the THETA WiFi API.
Closeup of THETA with stand.
Computer Interface and Employee Workflow
Customer (Car Buyer) View
SpinCar provides similar functionality in a mobile app. Once the dealer takes the picture using the mobile app, the app uploads it to the SpinCar site.
Indie Developer and 3G Auto
Here’s a great example of an independent software and web developer Thomas Popowich creating sites for 3G Auto.
Thomas is using the open source software Photo Sphere Viewer to display the THETA image.
After review their systems, I thought of three areas where a THETA developer could improve on the features and either propose a partnership with 3i Auto-Shot or SpinCar or give a go yourself.
- Use USB API to improve speed of workflow and system stability. One of the limitations of the WiFi API is the slow speed of transfer for images.
- 360 Video. Both of the examples use still THETA images, not THETA video. As the interior of the car does not move, it’s not obvious why video would be needed. However, a creative use of video moving from the front of the car to the back in a vehicle fly-through might provide product differentiation and a flashy way for car buyers to experience vehicles online
- VR headset experience. The current buying experience is based on a web page and a set of 360 images. Although the number of people that would use a headset is small now, it might be another way to provide differentiation if there was an option for a VR experience and the buyer could experience the cars with cardboard
Two examples of the THETA USB API are:
Photosphere by Koen Hufkens
tlapser360 by Jason Charcalla
Ricoh’s official 360 image cloud hosting service, theta360.biz, can be used to quickly create 360 car image tours. I made a quick mockup of a site below. The advantage of
theta360.biz is that car dealers can show multiple 360 images for one vehicle with a pre-made tour template.
In the example above, I created a black template map for each type of vehicle in my inventory. Once I have one template black map, I can use it for every minivan.