Ford Looking To Add Augmented Reality To Car Design Process [w/Video]

Ford is hoping to make vehicle design easier by mixing a new technology such as augmented reality, with traditional techniques like clay modeling.

Step one for the automaker is to test Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed reality headsets and see how they could facilitate vehicle design. These wireless headsets cost up to $5,000 each and can allow designers to place a hologram of a car on top of a real, physical model.

If a designers sees something he doesn’t like, they can leave voice recorded notes from specific points of view for other designers to access later on.

“It’s amazing we can combine the old and the new – clay models and holograms – in a way that both saves time and allows designers to experiment and iterate quickly to dream up even more stylish, clever vehicles,” said Ford exec, Jim Holland. “Microsoft HoloLens is a powerful tool for designers as we continue to reimagine vehicles and mobility experiences in fast-changing times.”

This new technology is by no means meant to replace traditional tools like clay modeling or computer design software, but rather supplement them and reduce decision-making times from weeks to hours, potentially – where headsets can be synced to allow multiple team members to view a design simultaneously.

“HoloLens allows a whole team of people to collaborate, share and experience ideas together,” said Ford virtual reality specialist, Elizabeth Baron. “Mixing virtual and physical models is exciting, because it helps our designers and engineers communicate effectively and ideate to see what the future looks like earlier in the process. This allows great freedom and efficiency in how prototypes are created or changed.”

Since Microsoft introduced HoloLens in 2016, multiple companies have used it for commercial purposes. Thyssenkrupp used it for elevator design, NASA for simulating the Martian surface and Case Western Reserve University for teaching anatomy, reports Autonews.

According to Ford’s manager of design technical operations, Craig Wetzel, the automaker has “only just scratched the surface” with HoloLens. “We may not be able to teleport yet, but HoloLens allows us to review full-size 3D designs with designers and engineers around the world in real time.”

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