The world’s first XR test drive

Together, Volvo Cars and Varjo are literally driving the future by creating the world’s first mixed reality approach to evaluating prototypes, designs and active safety technologies.

For the first time ever, Volvo Cars and Varjo have made it possible to drive a real car while wearing a mixed reality headset, seamlessly adding virtual elements that seem real.

“Driving with an XR headset is the most challenging automotive use case Volvo has ever worked on. XR-1 is the only device that’s up to the challenge,” says Casper Wickman, Technical Leader at Volvo Cars.

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Paving the way

Volvo Cars has been using XR-1 prototypes in their workflow since the summer of 2018. By adding photorealistic virtual elements to the interior of the car, Volvo Cars designers are able to perform design-studies of future cars before they are even built.

The use of XR-1 will enable Volvo Cars to iterate design and UX concepts quickly and to avoid tedious tool and software changes, saving a significant amount of money along the way. “We’ll be able to do things in a day that would normally take weeks or longer,” Casper Wickman says.

When it comes to the design evaluation process, it’s crucial to be able to see the outer shape and proportions of the car, but also the fit and finish between the components, the graining of the leather, and more. “XR‑1 adds unprecedented realism, which means we have more faith in the results of our evaluations. And it’s so much faster as there’s no limit to what we can do in mixed reality,” Wickman says.

Volvo Cars engineers have been test-driving a real Volvo XC90 car with the driver wearing a XR-1 headset. Previously this has not been possible with any other device.

“When you’re using XR to drive, latency is as important or more important than resolution. XR-1 manages to be extraordinary at both.”

“XR-1 is the only device where you can no longer tell what’s real and what’s not.”

XR-1 enables Volvo Cars to perform unique user research

With XR-1’s integrated 20/20 Eye Tracker, Volvo can understand the relevance and results of user analyses. Eye tracking adds a very big layer of capability and trustworthiness – you’re observing the vehicle as the customer would, so you get a much more efficient view of what’s important and what’s not.

With XR-1, Volvo is able to perform UX studies by keeping as much as possible of reality – the real road, nature, road signs and more – and only exchange the things they want to evaluate, for example a new display or interior.

“When you’re driving with XR-1, you actually forget you’re looking through a headset. People using XR-1 break when they see a virtual moose crossing the road. Or when a virtual car overtakes our test car, test drivers have asked “Is that car real or not?”.

As for the future, Wickman says there are endless opportunities to extend the collaboration to manufacturing, car assembly training, retail, car configuration, research and more.

“From now on, each time we want to try something that doesn’t exist, XR-1 will be the technology we will use.”

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