Observed: Volkswagen’s Interactive Ad

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Earlier this year we discussed Volkswagen’s superbowl ad and some of our observations around emotions and design. Now, the innovative automobile company does it again, this time with a mobile application. (Note, you cannot access the application through iTunes in all regions).


The application is quite simple in design – offering a brief description of a vehicle and details around some of Volkswagen’s innovative technology. As their video describes though, it is difficult to simply describe the function so the remainder of the application allow customers to test drive the functionality. By selecting a function, one may place their phone over the printed ad and steer their avatar – in this case a Volkswagen vehicle. Depending on the feature selected – lane assist, adaptive lights, and adaptive cruise control, the car reacts differently when the mobile device is placed over the street in the printed ad. Watch the lights follow the curve of the road, the vehicle vibrate when touching the edge of the lane, and more.

While augmented reality isn’t new to the cell phone, with applications allowing you to type while still seeing what is in front of you, superimpose social network information over people’s heads, and more, this is one of my first experiences with it as a strictly marketing technique. In reality though – this goes beyond marketing. The Volkswagen ad is a simple prototype. As interaction designers we spend a lot of time talking about sketching, prototypes, and development. Often that is defined as a tangible representation of a model. In this case though, holding a phone is nothing like driving a car. Still, this simple prototype, or tool, demonstrates a complex interaction, can inspire conversation, and excite people to invest in the product, and ultimately purchase a vehicle. Aren’t these the same goals we aspire to when developing websites and software? What tools can be used to create prototypes outside of the screen to communicate what a technology might be like, without building the entire system, or by building a different one entirely?

Images from VW Innovations

David Farkas

David is an interaction(s) designer working in the online and mobile realm. He focuses on the relation between the digital and the physical. Usability, goal oriented design, and consistency are key.

One comment on this article

  1. I liked the conceptual, but the actual app and the print add don’t WOW me.