While the wide array of apps showcased on the show floor of Google I/O's Developer's Sandbox was expected, a car in the middle of the floor was not. The shiny new luxury coupe wasn't there just for show, but for hands-on demonstrations illustrating an innovative new integration with Google Maps and other social apps...
The Mercedes-Benz SL was kitted out to demo Digital DriveStyle, a smart system integrated with Google Maps. This is a big leap forward not only for in-car navigation, but also because the system recognizes how drivers are using their mobile devices with their automobiles using a variety of apps (even when they're not supposed to). This Mercedes-Benz Research & Development solution hopes to fold everything into an all-in-one solution.
• Navigation powered by Navigon • Lane Assistant Pro • Real Road Signs • Speed Limit Assistant • Voice-prompted, turn-by-turn directions including spoken street names • Real Time Traffic Information • 2D and 3D map display (bird’s-eye view) • 3D buildings and landmarks • Local Search and Street View powered by Google • Millions of preloaded points of interest including gas stations, restaurants and other businesses • Car Finder • Car Info with Vehicle Identification Number, Odometer and Fuel Level • Internet Radio • Facebook, Twitter, and Glympse integration
While the Digital DriveStyle technology is definitely a progressive move for aligning our mobile lives with the mobility offered by cars, what really caught my eyes at the Developer Sandbox was Toyota Collaborator. Toyota Collaborator leverages Google+ making buying a car a collaborative process between anyone you and anyone you want within your Google+ circle(s). In a nutshell, Collaborator does for car shopping what Google Docs did for document creation across multiple authors, allowing up to 5 users to participate in speccing out a Toyota vehicle online (up to 10 users can be invited, but only 5 can be manipulating the virtual vehicle).
With Collaborator, you and those invited, are able to select different elements in real time, including paint job and package features (you can easily see who is selecting what and driving up your total off the lot cost). It's basically Google Hangouts applied to the car purchasing process. After coming to an agreement, the buying team can take the car on a test drive with Google Maps, with an immersive 3D tour of the car you've all built together. Toyota Collaborator is currently in prototype mode and is expected to become available to consumers later this year.
After using the demo at I/O, I could not help but think about what this technology could do for interior decorating, shopping for home furnishings. Imagine being at IKEA and utilizing a truly live collaborative tools like this in conjunction with an augmented reality app?