Ford designers have swapped clay modeling tools for virtual reality headsets and visualization software that allow them to change vehicle design elements such as mirrors, grilles or interiors, in just seconds. For this, Microsoft HoloLens technology is used, a tool that allows them to see virtual design elements as if they were part of real vehicles.
HoloLens technology uses mixed reality, which allows designers to view holograms in photo-quality backgrounds through wireless headphones. They can select and preview multiple design variations projected virtually onto a real car or clay model with the flick of a finger.
As designers equipped with wireless headsets move around a real vehicle, Microsoft HoloLens scans and maps the environment much more precisely than GPS to generate holograms and images from the angle the vehicle is being viewed at.
The helmets are equipped with a Windows 10 computer that brings the power of the operating system to a wireless, wearable and mobile holographic device. Traditionally, designers and engineers often have to use headsets that are wired to a PC.
Designers view 3D images of themes and features as if these elements were already part of the vehicle, allowing them to quickly evaluate the design, make changes, and determine design options early in development.
Ford has also adapted HoloLens technology to allow designers to collaborate with engineers to better understand the user experience. For example, the technology allows a designer and engineer to evaluate in near real time how a new rear-view mirror looks, as well as how it allows the user to see the surroundings of the car.
While today it can take days or even weeks to study a grid design, HoloLens allows designers and engineers to explore a variety of options in a matter of hours. Helmets can even be synced to allow multiple team members to view a design simultaneously, making it easier to work together. They can also record audio notes for other team members working in other time zones or off-site.
Beyond the global design test, Ford is investigating how to implement HoloLens technology in advanced engineering processes, with the goal of expanding the company's initiatives in the use of advanced display technologies such as virtual reality.
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