Google Cardboard surfaces to promote Volvo

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Remember Google Cardboard, the company’s cut-rate response to Oculus Rift? It’s now being used as a marketing tool for Volvo.

The Swedish automaker will offer a simulated test drive on Google Cardboard to promote its XC90 crossover, which will go on sale in spring 2015. The automaker will roll out the Cardboard test drives at the Los Angeles Auto Show and at Volvo dealers. Volvo has used Oculus in the past for a similar purpose, but Bodil Eriksson, EVP of product, brand and marketing communications at Volvo, says Cardboard is a lot more accessible. “This is really bringing the car to where people are in an un-fussy way.” R/GA and Framestore created the experience, known as Volvo Reality.

The experience isn’t as immersive as Oculus but it’s not bad, considering you can put together a Cardboard viewer for as little as $7 versus hundreds of dollars for an Oculus headset. The 3-minute ride gives you sort of a fly’s view of what it’s like to drive an XC90 since you can look around the car and down at the seat where your butt would be.

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Volvo claims to be the first brand to use Cardboard in the U.S. for marketing purposes, but UK retailer John Lewis has already been employing Cardboard for its Christmas campaign. The John Lewis campaign lets consumers experience “Monty’s Christmas,” an interactive story featuring Monty the Penguin.

Google introduced Cardboard during its I/0 developers conference in June. At first, many considered the product to be a joke, but Google is dead serious about Cardboard, which provides an immersive experience using an Android phone or an iPhone plus corrugated cardboard, some lenses, magnets, two strips of velcro and a rubber band.

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