Thermo King in action: virtual reality delivered at IAA 2018

5th November 2018

At this year’s IAA trade fair in Hannover, Thermo King and Frigoblock turned up with something a little different to grab the attention of delegates: virtual reality.

It was an imaginative concept (even if we do say so ourselves!) designed to show delegates how the technologies of today are already helping shape expectations for tomorrow; and to demonstrate progress on the road to Thermotopia – our bright new vision for the future of refrigerated transport.

That was the headline at least. Below this however was another factor at work. We knew the event would be attended by many of the people who sign off on large fleet investments. Individuals who know a thing or two about transport fleets, but who don’t (typically) get out on the road to see the benefits in action.

That’s why we wanted to show our technology at work, to demonstrate products like Whisper Pro, Geofencing, and TracKing being used in ‘real-world’ scenarios. Our thinking being that in doing so we would help provide the context behind much of our marketing activities, and to therefore offer the basis for future conversations.

Shaping a new reality

Making it all work required us to bring a sense of interactivity to proceedings. To create a fully immersive experience that put each ‘player’ in the driving seat. That’s not to say we operated without any constraints. ‘Reality’ for most transporters involves small to large vehicles travelling many miles a day, and getting permission to drive large trucks through the middle of the IAA event was considered unlikely! So instead, we needed to find a way to bring a driver’s day-to-day experience to our stand – which meant taking reality ‘virtual’.

The result was a section of our main booth turned over to delegates wearing large virtual reality (VR) headsets. Once ‘inside’ the VR, each person was transformed in ‘Bob the driver’ as he attempted to complete an important mission: to deliver a fresh load of ice-cream to a children’s school in a busy city center, whilst overcoming various obstacles along the way.

Sharing the magic

Not that you ‘had to be there’ to get involved. As part of the project plan, we were also tasked with extending the VR experience to a wider transport audience – via their own mobile and desktop devices. This created a different set of challenges, but after some careful head scratching and clever developer work, a YouTube version was crafted.

Importantly, this wasn’t ‘just another video’. From the start, we were determined to keep the wow factor that comes with VR – alongside the user-driven interactivity. That meant handing out cardboard goggles at the event to delegates, which in turn worked with the video when the user clicked on ‘cardboard view’ (the video still works fine without these goggles – as you can see here).

An interactive adventure

As for the story itself, the action sequence was carefully designed to highlight four key themes and product capabilities:

  • Compliance
    with Bob entering an area with strict PIEK noise regulations – and the Whisper Pro option that makes this easy to navigate.
  • Electrification
    giving Bob the confidence of knowing his SLXi Hybrid unit has automatically switched to electric mode inside a low emission zone.
  • Connectivity
    giving Bob the benefit of insight (maintenance schedules, fuel levels etc.) that comes with telematics.
  • Innovation
    demonstrating how Thermo King and Frigoblock technologies are already in place and working together to help customers progress on the road to Thermotopia.