We Take Ford’s “Augmented Reality” Fusion iPhone App For A Spin

By Blake Z. Rong | December 15, 2011
Ford is introducing a new version of their bestselling Fusion sedan at the Detroit Auto Show. And since kids these days aren’t programming in FORTRAN on their Commodore 64s, the company has taken to the iPhone (as well as the iPad and Android) to build up interest. Turns out, in addition to SYNC and MyFord Touch, there's an app for the 2013 Ford Fusion as well. The app, minimalistically titled “Ford Fusion,” allows users to “drive a new Fusion through a series of ‘worlds’ that unlock to reveal the car.” Being the shameless Mac fanboy I see myself get accused of, I downloaded the app onto my iPhone, and got ready to test out the augmented reality feature, a modern marvel of technology that still tickles my ape-like brain. There’s a calendar that ticks down the days until the Fusion’s reveal, on January 9; each day has a different course on which you can drive. The car itself is a deeply camouflaged Fusion with blue daggers of light streaming from underneath a billowing black tarp, as if it was about to explode with energy. The wheels are rimmed with blue light, and the track itself is another virtual world, with a bizarre hexagon pattern for a ground. Overall, it’s very Tron.
There’s no way to actually crash the car, of course. The “track” consists of streaks of blue light, like headlights on a dark highway, and the car follows a linear course the entire time. So it’s not actually driving, per se—and what’s more, potential Fusion owners who expect their cars to give off streaks of blue energy will be sorely disappointed. And that’s just in Drive mode. Free Roam gives you the ability to wander off into the void, or go towards the light that is the Finish line (a metaphor for our ultimate mortality, perhaps). This time you get the ability to steer! But the steering is controlled by a solitary thumb in the corner of the screen, and its sensitive twitchiness sends the car rolling back and forth like a tempestuous ship. With every track unlocked, there’s a corresponding video of a Ford engineer talking about the engineering that’s gone into the 2013 Fusion. With their deadpan delivery and blank stares into the camera, the interviews give off a creepy, dystopian effect. The Augmented Reality part consists of finding a Ford logo, which sounds good on paper, but in reality is rather limited. Ford logos aren’t as readily available as you think: how often will you play this game at a Ford dealership, or, say, in the Motor Trend parking lot? Still, I aimed the camera at Ford’s website (which seemed fairly meta) and it simply launched the app, and nothing else. Considering what advances that augmented reality technology has achieved on smartphones, it’s a letdown. So, to summarize: Ford teases the 2013 Fusion as a Tron-like, energy-radiating manifestation that accelerates to infinity miles per hour and features twitchy thumb-based steering like a honey badger on amphetamines. OK, we kid. But it’s a pretty neat way to tell about the 2013 Fusion while at the same time not revealing anything meaningful, at least, not until January 9. Just don’t expect your own Fusion to steer itself. Source: Ford