Audi is testing the so-called virtual reality "holodeck" to evaluate the design of its new models. This technology makes it possible to create a three-dimensional image of a car in an accessible virtual environment.
In this way, development engineers and production experts can get a very realistic overall impression of a new model and its proportions at a very early stage. This reduces the number of physical tests and trials required, thus saving development time and costs.
The term "holodeck" comes from the series of science fiction star trek, and refers to a special room that simulates virtual worlds. In Audi's holodeck, fiction becomes reality. In a room with dimensions of approximately 15 x 15 square meters, prototypes can be displayed very realistically and in their correct proportions.
For this purpose, Audi planning experts have been commissioned to accurately recreate the room in which the design evaluation takes place in the virtual world. The virtual models of the vehicles are placed in this room, using the help of updated manufacturing data. These virtual models can be intuitively experienced both from the outside and from the cockpit. Unlike previous virtual reality environments, up to six people can move around the model at the same time.
Audi is testing the "holodeck" at the interface between development and production. Experts from both departments jointly assess the visual impression and surface of the new models, and make the necessary adjustments and modifications. This evaluation is the final stage before the various machines involved in the production of the vehicle come into operation. Until now, computer-generated 2D graphic images were used, as well as physical models made by hand, which are very expensive and can take up to six weeks to build.
To work on the holodeck, each user uses virtual reality glasses and two manual controls to interact, in addition to carrying an individual backpack containing a powerful PC that weighs only 3 kg, in charge of calculating the scene to be shown. These laptops connect via Wi-Fi to a central workstation, from which data exchange is controlled. The three-dimensional model can be presented in different settings.
At a later stage of development, the holodeck will allow other members of the Audi team to participate from different locations, making work organization much easier. Once the production process begins, the system will be used to maintain high quality standards. Audi developed this concept together with the Lightshape media agency in Stuttgart.
The brand with the four rings plans to introduce the virtual reality holodeck into its work processes before the end of the year. Another objective of the current testing phase is to explore the possibility of applying the technology in other areas of the company. Audi production planners have already created virtual presentations of complete stages of the assembly phase to visualize future processes.
Other areas in which Audi already applies virtual reality technology include training for employees in logistics. Or the so-called Audi VR experience for the advice of customers, which allows them to create their own configurations and to experience the optional equipment of the model in which they are interested in a realistic way.