Ford is expanding testing of Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality technology globally to gain speed in designing more stylish vehicles for its customers. New technology allows designers wearing wireless headsets to see several digital designs and parts as if these were already incorporated into a physical vehicle; this is helping Ford explore more design proposals while shaving time off design and engineering processes that can take years. For example, evaluating a vehicle’s side mirror aesthetics and how that affects a driver’s view normally takes days or weeks, but can now be done in minutes, even seconds.
Ford designers have been swapping some clay-sculpting steels and rakes for mixed reality headsets and visualization software that can change vehicle design elements – side mirrors, grilles, vehicle interiors and more – in mere seconds.
Designers have been piloting Microsoft HoloLens technology for a year now in Ford’s Dearborn studios, allowing them to see proposed virtual design elements as if these pieces were part of physical vehicles. They’ve been able to explore different shapes, sizes and textures of future vehicle attributes in minutes and hours instead of the weeks and months it can take to create clay models. And now, Ford is expanding this pioneering testing across the globe.
“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,” says Jim Holland, Ford vice president, vehicle component and systems engineering. “Microsoft HoloLens is a powerful tool for designers as we continue to reimagine vehicles and mobility experiences in fast-changing times.”
HoloLens technology uses mixed reality, which enables designers to see holograms in photo-quality backdrops through wire-free headsets. They can scroll and preview at the flick of a finger through numerous design variations projected virtually onto an actual car or clay model.
“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,” says Craig Wetzel, Ford manager, design technical operations. “And we’ve only just scratched the surface, so possibilities for the future seem almost limitless. This is very exciting.”