Your next new car could be nothing more than a hologram. At least there's a chance it might have been during its design process, with Ford trialing to Microsoft HoloLens technology as an integral part of creating future vehicles.
Being able to preview a designers work on the path to production has always been a key part of the process of developing a new model, with physical proofing through the use of clay models the traditional way of not only refining aesthetics, but also making sure fit, finish, and ergonomics are on track.
A new trial at Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan design studios is looking to swap part of the process with a new ‘mixed reality’ system. The Microsoft-developed HoloLens system swaps the time and labour-intensive process of clay sculpting for a 3D representation that can be laid over an existing vehicle of clay base form.
The change allows numerous variations of design to be viewed virtually within minutes of each other instead of the days or weeks a traditional clay model might take to create.
The technology within the HoloLens headsets allows designers to move around a vehicle and analyse the design from any angle, with the wireless headsets able to process viewed objects in real time and map new details and backgrounds and provide a realistic representation of prototype designs.
Ford is no stranger to the use of virtual technologies in the design process, with the company already up to speed on virtual reality tech, including at its Australian design centre in Melbourne.
The difference with the new system sees the previous physically connected and bulky headsets scaled down for a simpler, lighter, more realistic experience. The system also includes collaboration tools that allow design teams around the globe to more simply work together on upcoming projects.
Beyond the scope of design, the system also allows engineering teams to assess the impact of different parts as they are applied to the vehicle, like exterior mirrors and how they could impact not only rearward visibility but also forward vision, allowing the shape and profile to be finessed quickly and easily.
“With HoloLens, we can instantly flip through virtual representations to decide which direction they should go,” Ford design manager, Michael Smith, says. “As a designer, you want to show, not just tell. This is much more compelling.”
As well as its use as a design tool, Ford will look to expand the use of the HoloLens system to its engineering departments as the company looks to expand its expertise in the field of virtual technologies in the development process.