I'm sitting in a nondescript conference room with three visitors and Staff Reporter Vince Bond, adjusting the focus on a bulky set of goggles.
Suddenly, I'm in a design studio, watching a Ferrari revolve on a turntable. I'm pulling down its price and specs on a screen to the side, changing its colors from red to silver and then, moving inside, I'm switching the seats from leather to cloth and the shifter from a manual to an automatic. Outside the car again, I look to my right to see a Corvette parked on a platform. At my command, it backs out and a BMW drives up in its place.
Then, I'm in a warehouse looking at muscle cars: Mustang, Camaro, Challenger. Again, I change the colors and the viewing angles, but this time I'm also flipping through a choice of music from the nearby jukebox.
Next, I'm cruising on an open road, watching the telephone poles trot away in the rearview mirror. The images are crisp and detailed, down to the mandatory warning labels on the sun visors.
Welcome to cars in virtual reality.
The other folks in the conference room are from Evox Images. The company takes photos of 10 to 20 vehicles a week: interiors, exteriors, 360-degree panoramas. You've seen their new-car photos on third-party and dealership websites. All vehicles are shot from the same angles to allow bumper-to-bumper comparisons.
Since January 2015, Evox has been taking 3-D photos as well, building a library to serve the virtual-reality boom it foresees. The goggles that I'm using -- actually, a Gear VR headset -- take a Samsung Galaxy smartphone, but Evox doesn't care whether VR systems use Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, or whatever. They want to supply the images.
Today, their biggest clients are folks in product development. Internally, that means letting designers review styling changes in 3-D after manipulating images rather than remaking a clay model. Externally, that means easier and less expensive focus groups.