by Emmett Burnett
Walking through the vast vehicle show place that is the SEAT auto emoción Island, I can’t stop humming the Beatles tune “Baby You Can Drive My Car.” But as my guide, Second Life’s Barrabas Zabaleta explains; this involves more than just driving a car. “We want visitors to have a bold interactive experience. Yes it’s a brand promotion island, but more importantly; we want people to have fun.” Giving away free cars is a good way to start.
(SEAT’s Virtual Presence in Second Life features a dedicated Island and highly detailed free cars. )
Okay the free cars are Second Life versions. But still, these intricately detailed inside and out vehicles are a cool addition to anyone’s inventory. All that is required to own one is to complete a four-part test drive. I’m still trying, but more on that later. For now, let’s park my test car and tour the island.
First, some background: SEAT auto emoción is the largest (and only) automobile manufacturer in Spain. Based in Barcelona, the company’s products are available in over 70 countries. Did I say automobiles? Referring to SEAT vehicles as automobiles is like calling Godzilla a lizard. Both are huge understatements.
SEAT’s eight models including the Ibiza, Ibiza SC, Leon, Altea, Altea XL, Altea Freetract, Exeo, and Alhambra combine Mediterranean excitement with internal combustion engines. Who knew we could test drive one from a computer? Just pick your model, color, and type “oh wow” – it’s not necessary, but it’s a common response once teleported to a land of hot-to-trot automobiles.
“Our aim is to interact with people,” says Barrabas, about the virtual island and his company, Mosi-Mosi Metaverse (who are behind the design/creation of the island). “Through this virtual world experience, SEAT wants to highlight our values – young spirit, active, customer relevant, technology focused, innovative extrovert and challenging – from the point of view of the brand itself.” Just a few seconds after rezzing, one realizes this is more than a showroom. These folks like to party.
Approximately 300 showed up for SEAT’s New Year’s Eve Celebration and it’s no wonder. In addition to displayed cars, SEAT offers a beach complete with lounge chairs, a store stocked with freebies and scuba diving embedded with sharks. I know this because one bit me, but I digress. Now let’s start the tour.
We begin at the Welcome Area. From here one can join “Club Seat.” Membership is free, granting special privileges and access to special promotions. From there we move to the main building. My favorite part in this section is the showroom. But this does not mean static rows of cars for sale: after all, this is Second Life. These virtual replicas of SEAT’s finest are displayed on floating platforms. Click on the automobile for information or some really fun daydreaming about driving one.
(The SEAT virtual showroom features their newest models on floating platforms.)
There is a forum here for conferences and social gatherings. Seating can be built or dismantled as required. If the chair design looks familiar, it’s because they’re featured in SEAT race cars.
And then the rubber meets the road. We move to the “The Challenge Zone,” where users practice their driving abilities (or the lack thereof) in high performance machines. The SEAT Leon Cupra is given out via a “Vehicle Dispenser Platform.” I put a hot sports car through its paces, wearing a race jump suit in Second Life and pajamas in real life, and life is good, but my driving isn’t. “It’s not as easy as it looks,” Barrabas politely comforts me while simultaneously critiquing my road skills. “The course has four consecutive parts. Complete it and the car (Second Life version) is yours.”
The four parts involve Brake Test, Zig-Zag (I can zig, but my zagging needs work), Perfect Lap and the Jump Test. What impressed me most is the detail given these four-wheeled pixels. Everything interior and exterior is included in painstaking detail. You can almost feel the seat fabric.
After a grueling test course challenge, it’s time for some downtime on the SIM’s conveniently placed Beach Club. Earlier, I noticed in one of the freebie areas among the raceway gear, crash helmets and sports attire, an odd offering for a car maker: SCUBA gear. Now I see why. It comes in handy for “The Secret of the Unknown Abyss.”
What other car dealership/manufacturer offers an underwater adventure in which participants must find a golden seal to resolve the mystery of a secret chamber? Again, this is Second Life. Divers are equipped with special high pressure suits and need to carefully administer a limited oxygen supply whilst overcoming numerous dangers in treacherous waters.
(The Abyss is among numerous features used to attract visitors to the Island.)
There are “Do Not Enter” signs visible everywhere before one enters the dark foreboding cavern. Other warnings include “This Sign Has Sharp Edges,” “Danger, Radiation,” and “Caution, Shark Attack. Enter at Own Risk.” I don diving gear and jump right in. Within minutes, a menacing Great White Shark greets me. Isn’t this supposed to be a car dealership? Something has definitely gone wrong and right now, I would trade my SEAT car for a submarine. Still, this is fun.
And many others think so too.
According to traffic data compiled by Mosi-Mosi, the average time spent on most internet sites is under three minutes. SEAT visitors stay on average 45 minutes to an hour. My trip today was about an hour – including a self guided tour, car shopping, test-driving a high performance racer, and fending off hungry sharks. Car shopping may have been simpler back in the days when you kicked the tires and looked under a hood. But it was never nearly so fun.
SEAT auto emoción” Island Location: