Once upon a time, all a new-car customer had to go by was a brochure, an options list and their own imagination. Now, they can amuse themselves by speccing their chosen car on a configurator and seeing it evolve before their eyes in high resolution and perfect detail on their computer or smartphone. Bentley reckons its customers typically spend eight minutes configuring their new car. Given that there are up to seven billion possible permutations of options, such as paint, hide, veneer and stitching, on a GT alone, it’s surprising they don’t spend longer. The GT’s configurator requires 162,000 images to render these combinations of trim - more images than were created for the original Toy Story movie. If they were played one after the other, you’d be sitting at your computer watching them for five hours.
New Bentley Continental GT online configurator launched
Play the Mulsanne’s 820,000 images (that model is a lot more configurable than the GT), and you’d be there for 9 hours and 20 minutes. That being so, it’s good to know that if a lot more of us were to come into Mulsanne money, Bentley’s server can support more than 14,000 simultaneous configurations.
Upstairs at RealtimeUK’s smart barn offices is where the heavy lifting is done. It’s here that a team of talented, tech-savvy petrolheads sit, rendering the many layers required to form a configurator visualisation in glorious detail. Their Bentley jewel headlight lens is a thing of beauty; where brake calipers are a different colour, they reproduce a corresponding tint on the alloy wheel.
The images you see on RealtimeUK’s Bentley and VW online configurators are in 2D, but downstairs at the company’s Westby office (it has another site in Manchester), they’re putting the finishing touches to a 3D virtual reality configurator that uses all the layers and visualisations it creates.
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The day I visit, the embargo on the new VW T-Roc has just been lifted, so it’s this car I’m invited to poke around in. I put on a VR headset and grasp a hand controller. Pressing a button on this generates a blue arrow ahead of me and a circle where, when I release it, a virtual T-Roc suddenly appears. I can walk around it or inside it, whatever I wish. To move inside I can just walk through the car’s body or open a door.
Everything is rendered in perfect, 3D detail. It really is as if a T-Roc were standing in this small room for real.