DETROIT – The sky’s the limit at most auto shows as manufacturers try to one-up each other with lavish displays and elaborate gimmicks.

Ford takes it to the extreme at the North American International Auto Show here, opening to the public for an 8-day run on Jan.14 by offering visitors maybe not the sky, but close: an interactive “cloud” experience two stories above the floor.

Ford’s purpose is to demonstrate how its vehicles might connect electronically with their surroundings, making them virtual homes away from home. That is made possible by utilizing cloud computing, in which vast amounts of information is stored on remote servers and delivered via the Internet.

At the Ford exhibit, a specially built, scissor-like lift resembling an automotive axle jack speeds 12 passengers seated in a circle up 21.5 ft. (6.5 m) for a “Cloud Journey,” where they are shown a 360-degree revolving video of what the future might look like.

They must wear seatbelts or the device won’t operate. The lift is powered by hydraulics and pneumatics and controlled by electronics.

Using a virtual server on which the information is stored, the video shows, in animation, a variety of potential connections. For example, starting out in the morning, the car’s tire levels can be checked, the engine started, previously set climate and radio controls reactivated and the home security system set in motion.

Driving home, the car can trigger numerous functions such as setting the furnace thermostat or, perhaps, warming up a roast in the oven.

As the car moves into action, the system monitors traffic patterns and alerts drivers of accidents or lane closures ahead while advising on alternate routes.

Sensors in the seatbacks monitor the driver’s vital signs, such as pulse, drowsiness or sudden incapacity, bringing the car to a stop and alerting the nearest police and EMS via GPS.

As a bonus, the exhibit includes an interactive experience in which a visitor can touch a panel and get his picture taken, which then is sent to his email and Facebook page. The lift also gives passengers a panoramic view of Ford’s extensive vehicle exhibit.

London-based Imagination, with operations in Ford’s home city of Dearborn, MI, designed and developed the exhibit.

Tait Towers, headquartered in Litiz, PA, a leader in producing devices used in rock concerts and theme parks, engineered and built the lifting mechanism. Software was created by Fisher Technical Services of Las Vegas.

“Ford wanted an exciting experience for visitors,” says Robert Moore, an automation specialist at Tait Towers.