Inreal uses cinemizer OLED glasses made by lens specialist Carl Zeiss (Photo: Carl Zeiss)

Automakers mostly still believe customers need to touch and feel a car before buying it, but a new technology developed in Germany may give a big boost to virtual new car model presentations.

Inreal Technologies, a Karlsruhe-based virtual-reality company that specializes in product presentations, has developed a terminal that brings the virtual experience a step closer to reality.

"Developers, trade fair visitors, partners or customers can use our terminal to actually sit in cars or prototypes," Inreal Managing Director Thomas Schander said in a press release. "And they not only can experience the interior first hand, they can actually change it if they want to."

Inreal's virtual technology is built around the cinemizer OLED multimedia video glasses first introduced by lens specialist Carl Zeiss in 2010. The glasses combine three-dimensional viewing with stereo sound, providing a high-quality virtual experience.

Inreal's terminal product also uses CryEngine development software and includes a headtracker application that accurately converts all head movements.

The software allows a user to make the kind of changes to his environment that are impossible to achieve in the real world. Said Schander: "Through the use of practical controls many details can be adapted quickly and easily. That includes a different configuration of the fittings, a change of seat covers or various types of interior lighting in the vehicle."

Inreal's technology could be implemented in virtual showrooms, which would help reduce the high cost of dealership real estate in central locations. The idea of virtual showrooms has been around for several years. But dealers and automakers have been reluctant to embrace the concept, mostly because customers still want to see and experience the physical car before they buy it.

Audi inaugurated a virtual showroom in downtown London last month and promised to open more than 20 similar outlets worldwide by 2015.