As participants in this rapidly evolving age of technology, we, as people, on a seemingly daily basis are bombarded with newfangled ideas and products that aim to bring greater efficiency and overall value to our lives. Looking to count calories on your way to attaining a weight loss goal? There’s an app for that. Need new underwear sent to you every month? There are companies who will have you covered for a monthly subscription fee.
But every once in a while, there comes an idea or innovation that is so ground-breaking and revolutionary that it changes our habits and behaviors entirely. Netflix has brought virtual non-stop entertainment streaming into the homes of people worldwide, eliminating trips to the video store. Uber and Lyft have made getting a safe ride anywhere as easy as pressing a single button, helping reduce incidents of impaired driving.
At Carvana, our long-standing mission has been to change the way people think about and approach the process of buying a car. Our online platform has made it easy for people to avoid the pitfalls typically associated with a trip to a traditional dealership, replacing it with a virtually seamless and painless car buying experience from A to Z that can be completed from the comfort of home or on the go.
Recently, we took the next step in transforming the car buying status quo. From the moment of our inception, we aimed to provide car buyers with an immersive virtual experience that would allow them to experience a vehicle online as if there were physically there. With our original patented photo booth technology, we set the bar for online car buying by allowing customers to virtually tour vehicles in 360 degrees, inside and out. However, while the bar had been set, our spirit of innovation and advancement pushed us to seek new ways of providing an even more deeply engaging car buying experience for online car shoppers.
The launch of our new Spinner technology achieves that goal by providing car buyers with a truly immersive and interactive experience that allows them to virtually tour vehicles online like never before. Below we share the story of how this cutting edge Carvana innovation came to life by providing a behind-the-scenes look courtesy of the creative and collaborative minds who made it all possible. Our Spinner story begins with Bruno F., Carvana’s Director of Product, who played a key role in helping take Carvana from its original photo booth technology to the all-new Carvana Spinner.
CREATING A WHOLE NEW CAR BUYING EXPERIENCE
Have you ever come across someone you are convinced can see the future? For the skeptics out there, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with Bruno F., Carvana’s Director of Product. Prior to his arrival at Carvana, Bruno was a member of the team at Car360 – a technology platform that enables premium merchandising and robust inspection reports using computer vision and augmented reality. In other words, they do really cool stuff with 360-degree visualizations of cars.
Following Carvana’s acquisition of the Car360 platform, Bruno joined the Carvana team to oversee the engineering team through the process of integrating the Car360 technology with Carvana’s current online platform. This included working with Carvana’s UX/UI team in Venice Beach, working with Carvana’s Photo Booth team in Winder, Ga., as well as working with some of the key players at Carvana headquarters to get feedback on how the Spinner project was developing.
According to Bruno, the idea for Car360 was born when he was perusing the websites of other online car buying marketplaces.
“I looked at Autotrader and Cars.com and noticed that it was always the same kind of photos – it was a set of photos with like 50 thumbnails that you had to click through,” said Bruno. “The photo quality wasn’t the greatest and they weren’t often organized well, so you have to click back and forth.
“Our goal was to create something that was more interactive where you can see the car from any angle, add hotspots to the car so you can get specific information about the vehicle…overall we just wanted to improve the Vehicle Details Page (VDP) photo experience for customers.”
With his company based in Atlanta, Bruno took advantage of local connections he had to Carvana, which eventually led to him meeting with Carvana Founder and CEO Ernie Garcia.
“I met Ernie at Venture Atlanta where he was presenting and I showed him our technology,” said Bruno. “With our technology, we can do 3D reconstruction of the car and use machine learning to identify the contour, as well as every main component of the car, meaning we can do a lot more with the Spinner than just stitching a bunch of photos together.
“That’s where Ernie got really interested in what we were working on.”
The biggest hurdle for Bruno and his team came in transitioning Car360 from its original mobile application to Carvana’s online platform.
“Most of our technology was mobile, so all the 3D reconstruction was done on the mobile phone,” said Bruno. “With Carvana, everything was done in a photo booth, so a lot of our technology had to be rewritten in order for it to run on servers. We had to do a lot of things to accommodate photos coming from a DSLR camera versus a mobile phone. That was one of our biggest challenges.”
The months of tinkering and toiling and re-imagining have paid off, however, as Bruno feels like Carvana’s new Spinner technology provides an additional and important layer of trust for individuals who are looking to purchase their next vehicle online.
“People who buy a car 100 percent online need to feel comfortable and need to trust the car,” says Bruno. “When customers look at cars on Carvana.com, they need to trust that that’s what they’re buying. That includes being aware of all the features, rotating the car and viewing it from every angle, being able to see what, if any, imperfections exist, etc.
“In the end, we want them to feel confident and assured that what they see online is what they would if they were there physically in front of the vehicle. That’s the ultimate goal.”