If you haven't driven a Golf R lately, head to your dealer. Okay, you don't have a car? Because you're five years old? A new campaign from Volkswagen of America lets you drive the sports car the way children of various ages actually prefer to drive: with their voices.
Called "Unleash Your Rrrr," the campaign is at a microsite featuring lots of footage of Golf R cars on racetracks. But you have to engage with the site to obtain those visuals, thus virtually driving the Golf R. More specifically, you have to channel your inner sandbox-age child and make driving noises.
Volkswagen says its agency, Deutsch L.A., developed the voice recognition app that powers the program with so-called “deep learning” programming. It other words, the program analyzes users’ vocal impressions of the Golf R engine and pairs them with appropriate footage to create a customized video of the car on a race track.
Volkswagen says the technology classifies each user’s vocal pitch and chooses a clip from a pool of hundreds of Volkswagen car videos. If you make a braking sound, or a rubber peel-out sound, you get a video of a Golf R drifting a hairpin. For example, if a user makes an acceleration sound, you might see the Golf R doing that on a straightaway.
In a statement, Vinay Shahani, VP marketing at VW's Herndon, Va.-based U.S. arm, concedes that the idea is to mine those most atavistic of responses to fast cars and big engines. “The idea behind the Golf R ‘Unleash Your Rrrr’ was simple – imagination. As children, we've all played with toy cars, and the power of our imaginations allowed us to turn rugs into expressways and wooden floors into slick racetracks. Our voice would act as the engine.”
To up the social factor, and therefore the potential embarrassment factor, there is a picture-within-a-picture aspect, allowing people to share visuals not of the car but of the person making the sounds.
Volkswagen Rallycross driver Tanner Foust does the actual stunts in the library of videos the program is using. Foust is being featured in a promotional video for the site Another one promoting the program features actor Michael Winslow, known for his ability to do vocal special effects. He appears as a fully geared-up racer walking out to a track. Instead of a car, he approaches a table with a computer.