In a promotion that blends a virtual animated pop star with the cutting-edge techniques of augmented reality (AR), Toyota is using one of its smartphone apps to put the singing cartoon moppet Hatsune Miku on your desktop. iOS and soon Android owners can download the free Toyota Shopping Tool app from their respective app stores and aim the camera view at a coded printout that simulates a stage. The AR does the rest, making the virtual singer appear on the virtual stage to belt out a song.
The campaign is in support of the 2011 Corolla, which also uses the Hatsune Miku character in its video campaigns. The animated character is, as they say, big in Japan. More than 100,000 user-generated songs and videos have been made with the character, which was invented in 2007 by Crypton Future Media. Toyota embraced the character as a mascot and spokesperson for the brand. The video series has live actors, including a hot dog salesman, interacting with her as if she were a real person.
While many AR implementations are cheesy grabs at attention via dazzling new technology, we have to credit Toyota here. At least the AR makes sense within the context of the campaign, which centers around the virtual animated character in the real world.
In execution, however, the scheme is a little less satisfying. After all, the elaborate scheme requires the consumer to jump through several hoops: downloading an app, locating the AR code, printing it out and aiming the phone cam at the printout. We cheated and just used the camera at our desktop browser, where we found the code. The AR worked as promised, albeit with a view from above in our case, since the code/AR combo works best when oriented on an angle. But Hatsune Miku did start her routine, dancing and singing in front of the Corolla, which was also rendered in the scene. Alas, the audio track cut out about halfway through the number, and we noticed that our chipmunk-voiced star has about one or two stock spins in her repertoire that pretty much got repeated throughout.
Cool -- but with such a modest payoff after a multi-step process, how long does the AR shtick maintain its drawing power?