How Varjo and VRED are pushing the boundaries of virtual car design
Car design has moved beyond clay models and distorted pixels on 2D screens. Virtual reality and mixed reality allow for cross-global collaboration and make unified and interactive design prototypes possible.
Design is a complex business – with outdated prototypes
In automotive design, we car designers strive to always showcase something new and exciting to our customers, board members, and decision-makers. This means that we invent new forms, new processes, and methods every day.
Paradoxically, most of our work processes are in stark contrast with the possibilities that technology is offering nowadays – particularly immersive technologies.
Prior to embracing the possibilities of virtual reality, I would walk into a design studio early in the morning, where I was often greeted by expensive, inflexible, and dusty dinosaurs. No, not T-rex or Brachiosauruses. I’m talking about what I affectionately call prototype dinosaurs.
Clay modeling can be costly
Traditionally, a prototype of a new car model is created with clay. A clay model of a car can easily weigh up to a ton, based on a steel frame. Designers use the model to get a feel for the volume, floor plans, and details.
Changes to a clay model can sometimes be quickly implemented by hand. But, in case of significant modifications, it can take days or weeks of waiting, whilst costs and impatience grow exponentially. The development cost of a clay model can quickly exceed a million euros.
Over the last decades, clay models have been the center of design development and they are still in use in daily business. But the virtual revolution is quickly starting to make physical prototypes obsolete. Digital design prototypes encourage greater collaboration across continents, provide greater speed and more accurate solutions.
From clay to pixel-perfect virtual models – a designer’s dream becomes reality
Today, when I walk into a designer’s studio, I fire up a workstation, put on the Varjo XR-3 headset, and initiate eye tracking. I study and interact with the real-size virtual model in a real-looking environment. It’s the science fiction scenario that we designers have dreamt about for years.
The whole experience is possible due to a few technologies and solutions. The extremely high resolution (over 70 pixels per degree) headsets from Varjo and software like Autodesk VRED make this possible. The rich field of view (115°) that Varjo XR-3 offers creates an incomparable feeling of reality. This view is perfected by foveated rendering.
What is really revolutionary – is that I can now see the car and interact with it, even though it doesn’t physically exist. I can open the virtual car doors, see every little detail and even read the display in the interior without any observable pixels.
It’s literally as if I’m there.
Autodesk and Varjo are building the collaborative future for car design
Design collaboration is where technology must support, unite, simplify and lead to a faster and safer process. That’s why it’s so important that I can take the virtual car model and place it in the design studio of my colleagues in Tokyo, effortlessly. I can now review colors, shapes, and ideas with them in a virtual world.
When collaborating with our colleagues, we designers want to playfully develop and visualize ideas. At the same time, it’s important to see objects in their real size and understand them on a holistic level. Designers want to comprehend the entire object, every detail, all materials, all colors, and all derivatives when reviewing new car models. We need to compare ideas with the status quo and adapt to future concepts. When collaborating on a car design, we want to focus on the essential and not on the unnecessary technical hurdles.
Varjo and Autodesk have been working, researching, and setting targets together for the last five years and pushing the design workflow of the future further. We are now moving at high speed into a new era of the virtual design process. Designers can be physically apart but working virtually unanimously in the same virtual environment, seeing the same design prototype, the same lights and shadows, altering design decisions in the same reality.
Let’s keep testing the boundaries of reality and let the future be a collaborative and unified one.
Download Varjo’s recent white paper to learn more about the business benefits of VR/XR for industrial design.