Ford designers in Melbourne are increasingly using virtual and mixed reality to accelerate the design process for new vehicles.

Designers have been piloting Microsoft HoloLens technology for a year now in Ford’s Dearborn headquarters, allowing them to see proposed virtual design elements brought to life inside the physical vehicle.

Last week the car maker announced it is expanding its testing of Microsoft HoloLens globally, which sees designers swapping clay models for wireless headsets.

Ford’s Asia Pacific Product Development Centre in Melbourne houses a state-of-the-art facility called the Ford immersive Virtual Environment (FiVE) lab allows designers to fully experience a vehicle without the need for a physical prototype, a spokesperson told Which-50.

“Ford has virtual-reality facilities in Australia, the United States, Germany, China, India, Brazil and Mexico. These centres are part of the company’s virtual engineering processes that utilise immersive environments and advanced computer-aided engineering to accurately model everything from the whole vehicle to minute details before building prototypes,” the spokesperson said.

Ford’s designers haven’t completely done away with the traditional clay models. The HoloLens technology 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.

“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.”

As designers wearing headsets move around an actual vehicle, the Microsoft HoloLens scans and maps the environment far more accurately than GPS to render holograms and images from the angle at which the vehicle is being viewed.

Designers see 3D holographic images of themes and features as though these elements were already part of the vehicle – allowing them to quickly evaluate the design, make changes, and determine styling options earlier in development.

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