Microsoft, GM Partner On Kinect Virtual Test Drives

The multi-screen ad campaign will promote the electric Chevrolet Volt on PCs, mobile phones, and with Kinect Joy Rides for the Xbox 360.
Microsoft Kinect Joy Ride
(click image for larger view)
Microsoft Kinect Joy Ride

General Motors has partnered with Microsoft in developing the first multi-screen advertising campaign that will tap the tech company's Kinect for the Xbox 360 to promote GM's electric Chevrolet Volt.

The campaign will also incorporate advertising on the PC and mobile phones. GM will be the first automaker to market a brand on Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 platform, the companies said.

A demonstration of how the Kinect can be used to get people physically involved with a brand was shown Wednesday at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in France. The Kinect is hardware that plugs into the Xbox 360 video-game console, making possible to play controller-free games. The Kinect sensor makes it possible to play virtual soccer, bowling, volleyball and many other games through physical gestures and verbal commands.

For promoting the Volt, set for release this year, Microsoft Game Studios has developed the "Kinect Joy Ride," which lets people virtually test drive the electric car via their TV screen. To the get the keys for the make-believe car, people must first watch a video ad in-dash on Xbox Live or on the Web.

"Kinect allows us to bring the excitement of the showroom to the living rooms of our customers," Jim Campbell, U.S. VP of Chevrolet marketing, said in a statement. "It's a way for us to replicate the experience of physically engaging with a product that is essential to the customer's purchasing decision."

Whether the game will reach people old-enough to afford a Volt, which reportedly will cost almost $40,000, remains to be seen. In the meantime, Microsoft and GM are testing other technologies to promote the car.

One possibility is to let people add a local Chevrolet promotion event to their calendar to go test-drive a Volt, or use voice-enabled search on their mobile phone via Microsoft Bing to find dealerships with the Volt.

Microsoft is also testing the use of its "Deep Zoom" technology within the Microsoft Silverlight graphics and video player to let people get a close up view of the interior and exterior of a Volt.

Other possibilities include setting up kiosks with Kinect at Volt promotional events and Chevrolet dealerships to let people play "Kinect Joy Ride."

Microsoft and GM plan to launch the ad campaign this summer. Terms of the advertising deal were not disclosed.