The Detroit Auto Show won't swing open its doors officially until Monday's press days, but that doesn't mean the show hasn't already taken hold at Cobo Hall, as thousands of workers are busy erecting stands, checking lighting and jockeying vehicles into place. Ford Motor Company officials invited us over a little early to get a sneak peek at their still-being-built display, and it's chock-full of technology that takes interactivity to a new level.

Dominating Ford's Living Connected display is the centrally located "Cloud Journey" ride, which literally takes showgoers through the ceiling in the name of connectivity. The circular floating platform ride accommodates a dozen belted occupants in Sparco racing seats, pushing them up from the show floor to a recess in the ceiling with a 360-degree screen. Participants are then treated to an immersive 360-degree presentation that shows Ford's vision of the near-term future of cloud-enhanced motoring (about 10 years out, officials tell us), with items like car-to-car communication, dynamic routing and so on. While you're up in The Cloud, a series of digital cameras capture riders' experiences, and they'll be able to relive the experience at home with a video if they sign up for a Blue Oval Card.

What's a Blue Oval Card? It's a free, RFID-based card that can be used all over Ford's stand. As you walk through the various displays, you can wave the card over the various receiver 'pods' to interact with the displays. Your card will then have a digital record of your progress and the vehicles in which you have expressed interest, and if you like, when you get home, you can log in to a special website that will have information tailored specifically to you based on your experience at the Detroit Auto Show. You'll be able to download video of your time on the Focus ST simulator, get digital brochures on cars you expressed interested in, share items with Facebook friends and so on.
Finally, one of the other highlights of the show stand will be an interactive Ken Block experience that utilizes green screen technology to put attendees in the middle of one of his Fiesta gymkhana stunts. Riffing on Block's wildly popular viral videos, the display projects an image of Block drifting around individual showgoers, with cameras capturing the stunt from different angles.

We've seen individual bits and pieces of this sort of technology before, but this is the first time we can recall it all being deployed at an auto show for the general public. Perhaps more thoroughly than any other automaker, Ford has worked to repackage itself as a tech company, from a steady presence at the Consumer Electronics Show to in-car efforts like Sync and MyFord Touch. Not all of these efforts have proven to be immediately successful, but as long as Ford manages to keep the lines moving, we suspect attendees will enjoy this digitally enhanced showgoing experience. And while the company hasn't confirmed it just yet, if you can't make it out to Motown for the show this year, we're guessing Ford will push elements of the stand out to its other auto show displays around the country in short order.

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Ford's Interactive Display at NAIAS Reaches New Heights –Literally

· Ford's display at 2012 NAIAS features a 20-foot-tall elevator that takes show guests up into "the Cloud" for an immersive cinema experience that showcases the future of in-vehicle technology

· First-ever Blue Oval Card program provides visitors with a personalized and shareable experience on the Ford show stand

· The all-new Ford Fusion will be revealed at Ford's press conference on Jan. 9 in Joe Louis Arena

DETROIT, Jan. 6, 2011– The Ford show display at the 2012 North American International Auto Show will give attendees a view from above of what may be in store for the future of in-car vehicle technology. The Ford Living Connected Experience demonstrates how trends will drive future customer in-car technology needs.

Ford's Living Connected Experience will give visitors a peek of what might be in store for new vehicle technologies. Leading up to their visit to "the Cloud," groups of 12 visitors are guided through five stations that explain how Ford technology is addressing future trends, including Changing Population Demographics, Emerging Technologies and Living Green. The group will then board a 20-foot-tall elevator that takes them into "the Cloud," where visitors enjoy a 360-degree film showcasing the future of in-vehicle technology from Ford.

The interactivity on Ford's 2012 show stand extends beyond the Living Connected Experience Through the use of augmented reality; visitors can drive with Motorsports star Ken Block, take a ride in a Mustang on the dyno, or use trivia to plan out their next great "Escape."

"We are constantly challenging ourselves to come up with new and exciting ways to engage our visitors from the moment they step foot on the Ford show stand," said Darrell Bryja, director of Global Auto Shows and Events. "Auto shows offer us valuable time with customers to inform them of Ford's newest products and technologies."

Statistics show this effort is paying off. Last year's visitors to the show reported significantly higher Favorable Opinion, Consideration, and Purchase Intention than the general population for Ford. The Ford display continues to be a big draw for attendees overall. At last year's show, 97 percent of the 735,000 overall auto show attendees visited the Ford display, and 88 percent of those rated the display as providing a positive impact on the brand.

The Ford display will feature the first-ever Blue Oval Card at this year's show, offering visitors a more focused, personalized experience they can share with their family and friends. Visitors can register online to receive a Blue Oval Card, which they can then use to access relevant content throughout their time on the Ford stand. Visitors can capture videos that play on the Ford stand, share an on-stand photo with their Facebook friends or even submit an opinion that will be displayed on the LED screens that appear on the stand.

"Being able to personalize an experience is becoming more important to people, and the Blue Oval Card allows just that on the Ford stand," said Bryja. "We want our customers to walk away from the Ford stand with a lasting memory that will draw them into a Ford dealer's showroom."

The Blue Oval Card experience extends to the all-new Ford Fusion, which will be revealed at the Ford press conference, scheduled for 8:00 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 9, in Joe Louis Arena. This is the first time that Ford will hold its press conference in Joe Louis Arena due to the construction taking place at Cobo Arena, where Ford previously hosted its press conference.

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