April-May 2017 News
The way that cars are designed is changing with the advent of virtual reality. Still in the trial phase for now, HoloLens software, encompassing mixed-reality goggles, allows the projection of an image of a car, with the ability to change the wheels, the colour, and any aspect of the vehicle within just a few seconds. Volkswagen is invested heavily in the technology and has six Virtual Engineering laboratories around the world, at Wolfsburg, Berlin, Munich, San Francisco and Barcelona. Specialists are working on the digital future, together with research institutions and technology partnerships. Between them, they are conjuring up solutions in the fields of big data, the Internet of things, connectivity and mobility services, and virtual reality is just one aspect that needs close co-operation between a variety of different companies.
A typical laboratory will feature a virtual reality 1:4 scale model of a car in the centre of the room. It’s possible to inspect the car closely, but with voice commands and gesture control, the design can be altered with different wheels, replacement headlights or altered door mirrors. Users can call up the entire Volkswagen range, presenting different bodystyles in all conceivable variants, and with the ability to transform from a four-door saloon, to an estate car, convertible or SUV. In the past, it would be time consuming to create validation models of each different car for production, in every colour, with a range of wheels and trim treatments. Not only does the software speed up development, it also hugely reduces costs, too, with each step of the process made faster and more efficient. It also allows teams at different sites to work together, cutting down on travelling time, and potentially making clay models a thing of the past.
Frank Ostermann heads up the Virtual Engineering Lab at Wolfsburg. Commenting on the technology, he said “We have been using augmented reality and virtual reality for some time now, mainly to obtain a three-dimensional view”. Frank added “We are transforming this technology into a tool for technical development departments. They will be able to see the results of their work immediately.”
Just a few years ago, the idea of virtual reality was pure science fiction, but now it is clear that this is how car makers will be developing their cars in the future.