Virtual Model 3
Augmented Reality

July 16, 2017

Mark D Larsen

Shortly after the first Model 3 rolled off the assembly line, a company that specializes in Tesla aftermarket accessories, Evannex, decided to make the wait for delivery a bit more tolerable for reservation holders. They programmed a virtual Model 3 image, for use with a free augmented reality app for iPhones and Androids by Kinetic Vision. When one opens the app, and points the phone’s camera at Evannex’s logo, a rotatable 3-D image of a red Model 3 “magically” appears on top of the letters! Those who would like to try it for themselves can open instructions on this webpage.

Evannex touts the free gift as a “pocket Model 3” because you can print the logo in the size of a business card, carry it in your wallet, and then show friends and family what your next car will look like someday. In reality, however, the app works with any size of the company’s logo: the larger the text, the larger the Model 3. I decided to test this out by printing a full page logo, and you can see the result in the following movie. The image is practically the size of a 1:18 diecast model. Cool!

Click to play this movie:

Of course, this piqued my curiosity: if one could make Evannex’s logo large enough, would it be possible to generate a virtual image the size of a real Model 3? Given my OCD tendencies when it comes to electric vehicles, I couldn’t just wonder about the possibility: I had to put the idea to the test. How to go about it? I opened the logo in my graphics program, and enlarged it to be as long as the car: 15.5 feet. I then checked to see if it would be possible to have Kinkos print a banner that large. Alas, the longest banners they could make was 3'x10', and it would cost a whopping... $170! I’m obsessive and a glutton for punishment, but I couldn’t justify spending that amount of money for a curious whim, especially if it might not work anyway.

It then occurred to me that perhaps I could print the enlarged logo at home on overlapping sheets, then tape them together. However, the app only works if the logo is white on a colored background, and I wouldn’t want to also waste money on several expensive color ink cartridges for what might prove a failed experiment. It dawned me that my garage floor is colored, and perhaps white letters laid out where I park a car would suffice to project a life-sized Model 3 image. I therefore poured white into the colored background, and changed the pallet to greyscale. I now had an outline of Evannex’s logo, as show below. If you click the image, you can open the full-sized JPG to duplicate my efforts.

Click to enlarge:

I loaded my printer with recycled sheets of paper that were still blank on the back sides, selected draft mode in the settings to speed up the job and waste less black ink, and then sent the printout to the queue. After several minutes, I had... 72 puzzle pieces to arrange, trim, and tape together! WARNING: this was the most time consuming, frustrating, tedious step of the entire experiment. If you do decide to be just as foolish, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Once I had the banner finally strung together, cutting out the letters was a cinch in comparison. I then went out to the garage and laid the letters on its colored and tire-stained floor, as you can see in the photo at the top of the page. The moment of truth had arrived. Would it work? I climbed onto a step stool to get a clear shot of the entire logo, started the app, pointed my iPhone’s camera at the letters, and... Eureka! I was seeing a full-sized red Model 3 sitting in my garage! The screen shots below show how I could then climb down from the step stool and move around the car, taking more shots from different angles.

Click to enlarge any screen shot:

Amazing! I had to chuckle when I later shared these screen shots with friends and family, and they thought that I really had taken an early delivery of a red Model 3. Tsk! What a practical joker I am to have pulled such a trick on them. Ah, well... for the next several months, until I really do park a Model 3 in that space, I’ll have to again spread those letters on the floor, simply to relish the eye candy before me.