Inside the Engine VR

Multiplayer virtual reality immerses audiences in engine innovation.

  • Auto Shanghai, China

To celebrate the release of a leading car manufacturer’s new engine at the Auto Shanghai, we created the multiplayer virtual reality experience Inside the Engine VR. An industry-first application of social virtual reality, the experiential marketing activation was designed to engage audiences in an immersive demonstration of the engine’s most innovative features. Developed for the HTC Vive, the experience let up to six visitors interact with a series of diverse virtual environments, each serving as a playful metaphor for the innovation and power of the innovative engine range that audiences feel empowered to explore.

An experience of innovation

Product Launch

When this new range of engines was first released at Auto Shanghai in China, the company needed a way to communicate the scalability of the range, and in particular the ‘small but mighty’ power of their latest 1.0L model.  The goal was to take audiences inside the engine, to learn about its features in a visceral, immersive experience that would not only educate but also excite. In short, they wanted an experience as innovative as the engines themselves.

A concept render of an experiential marketing stall at Auto Shanghai in China.

To do that, we worked with Imagination to create the Inside the Engine VR experience, an industry-first experiment with multiplayer virtual reality. Transporting up to six visitors from laboratory to race track, rainforest to microchip, the experiential marketing activation capitalised on the immersive and interactive properties of virtual reality, creating a playful environment in which audiences were empowered to explore car engines like never before.

Education through metaphor

Creative Direction
Virtual reality screenshot from digital agency S1T2 shows a huge elephant in an immersive jungle environment.

Throughout the Inside the Engine VRexperience, we used bold metaphors to give visitors a better understanding of the ‘small but mighty’ 1.0L engine. Fans were able to move colourful propeller fans through their virtual reality controllers, representing an interactive demonstration of the power of the engine’s Turbocharger fan.

The footprint of a huge 5-tonne elephant showcased the engine’s immense peak firing pressure. And the tactile comparison of supercomputers the size of an office compared to today’s microchips became a powerful demonstration of how technical innovation can revolutionise the way we think about size and power.

Cinematic virtual environments


Within the four minute experiential marketing activation, we took audiences into five diverse virtual reality environments that outlined the power and innovation of the new engine range. With an immersive, cinematic art style, these animated environments moved dynamically around visitors in a responsive experience that invited excitement and interaction.

Our main focus throughout each of these virtual environments was to explore the concept of scale. Scale was not only crucial to the new engine’s value proposition – that power can come from small things – but is also the perfect fit for virtual reality. With the ability to manipulate objects and environments, we were able to scale up and down our audience’s perspective from the size of an ant to the immense power of an elephant.

Interaction brings connection


Immersed within these fantastic virtual worlds, visitors found themselves able to personally interact with the experience as they learnt about each facet of the engine range. Playing with the user’s sense of scale, we leveraged the interactive power of virtual reality to create awe-inspiring moments that reinforced the unique benefits of innovative engines.

A concept render of an experiential marketing stall at Auto Shanghai in China.

Real reactions in virtual reality


Designed to accommodate up to six people within the virtual world, Inside the Engine VR aimed to create a more social, engaging virtual reality experience for visitors, and a more economical and effective experiential marketing activation.

Three dimensional render shows company branding on an HTC Vive headset in virtual reality.

Capitalising on the room-scale nature of the HTC Vive, we structured the experience such that each visitor was located in a stationary position throughout the experience, physically sitting around a central table. This allowed multiple visitors to engage with each other and with the virtual world, all without sacrificing the continuity of the experience.

Grey concept sketch shows five people in virtual reality using hand controllers to interact with a miniature race track.

The experiential marketing activation remained dynamic and engaging despite these limitations through the playful manipulation of motion and scale. As we transported visitors from each environment to the next, they were amazed by the cinematic landscapes animating around and responding to them.

Real-time screenshot shows an elephant in immersive virtual reality jungle environment created by digital agency S1T2.

A memorable, shared experience

Social VR

The multiplayer nature of Inside the Engine VR gave the activation an extended life. Breaking away from the traditionally solitary nature of virtual reality, the ability for visitors to see and interact with one another within the virtual world, saw the activation transform from solo exploration into a shared experience with family and friends.

This idea was extended through the addition of virtual props like confetti guns allowed visitors to interact with one another, creating memories that extended beyond the coded experience itself. This addition of personal agency saw the activation become not only more memorable for audiences, but more effective as a branded marketing tool.

Visitors to Auto Shanghai in China try multiplayer virtual reality experiential marketing.
Cropped image of the forest in the Explorer VR experience.

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