We sat at circular tables in a darkened room at a location called Milk Studios in Hollywood and donned HTC Vive VR headsets and headphones.
Each headset had a glowing neon frame, so you see other participants around the room. Off to one side were more glowing headsets. It transpired that these belonged to people at a separate studio in London, where Jaguar had created a second VR hub. We could hear them and wave at them as if they were in the room with us.
In the darkened VR world, up popped Andy Jaye, the radio and television presenter compering Jaguar’s launch. He was located in a room elsewhere in the building in LA, being projected in 3D into the virtual space. Then in strolled Jaguar’s design chief Ian Callum, who explained the I-Pace’s design as the car began to take shape alongside him.
Of course, the VR world can put you anywhere in the universe. One minute we were in space, looking down on the Earth as Jaye quizzed Callum on the design origins of the I-Pace. The next minute we were at Venice Beach in LA, sitting in the driver’s seat of the I-Pace and examining the cabin in detail.
It was a fully immersive experience. As Ian Hoban, Jaguar’s vehicle line director, appeared to explain the technology underpinning the I-Pace, it was possible to zoom in on components such as suspension or the battery pack using a hand-held controller.
To cap it all, once we removed our headsets and left the VR world, the real Jaguar I-Pace Concept had been wheeled out in front of us.
I was at a Renault event at the recent Paris motor show that used VR to showcase the new Trezor concept car, but the scale and ambition of Jaguar’s effort was certainly on a different level to any VR stunt I’ve experienced before.
Jaguar claims this was the largest live and connected VR event of its type to date, and it is clear that some serious resources went into making it work.
Jaguar worked with HTC, which supplied its latest Vive headsets, headphones and VR controllers (about £1000 per kit for each of the 66 guests who attended one of the launches Jaguar hosted during the day). Dell provided the computing power required to run the VR systems, and Jaguar employed a virtual reality director named Alexander Horton to direct the launch event.
Horton, a Brit who drives a Land Rover Defender, told me he had about 12 weeks to take the project from concept to reality, although Jaguar had laid the groundwork months earlier.