Here's How Volkswagen Is Developing Future Products Virtually

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • The HoloLens technology helps in creating a virtual projection
  • The mobile computer developed by Microsoft projects virtual content
  • Augmented and virtual reality help save time and development costs

As technology evolves, the making of a car matters a lot too. In fact the time taken to make a concept and translate that into a production version has drastically reduced and that's all thanks to the increasing usage of technology in the auto industry. With car makers embracing this technology, engineers can go into great details as far as building the car ground up is concerned. So, it's not just sci-fi anymore and virtual reality has found a place in the designing of a vehicle. German automaker Volkswagen is using mobile computer technology, 'HoloLens', which allows designers to project virtual content onto a physical object - essentially 'building' a virtual car in-front of them in minutes.

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The engineers wear mixed-reality goggles which help project their design onto a 1:4 scale model of a VW Golf and by the usage of gestures or even voice commands, they can change anything from the wheels, to the paint scheme to even the body shape of the car. Volkswagen's Virtual Engineering Lab is in Wolfsburg and computer engineer Frank Ostermann is leading one of six labs operated by Volkswagen Group IT that are utilising the virtual technology.

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One can change anything from the wheels, to the paint scheme to even the body shape of the car

He said that engineers will soon be able to use the software to test physical workings of a virtual vehicle, rather than it being used solely for aesthetic design. The mobile computer developed by Microsoft projects virtual content onto a physical object through gesture control and voice commands. Ostermann only needs to point his finger and the HoloLens projects a different paint color onto the Golf, installs different wheels and modifies the fenders.

"At Volkswagen, we have been using augmented reality and virtual reality for some time, mainly to obtain a three-dimensional view," says Ostermann. "We are now taking a major step forward at the Virtual Engineering Lab. We are transforming this technology into a tool for Technical Development. This will allow Volkswagen engineers to work on a virtual vehicle, to change its equipment as they wish and even to design new components virtually. They will be able to see the results of their work immediately."

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The mobile computer projects virtual content onto a physical object through gesture control and voice commands.

The HoloLens not only projects each design or equipment change directly onto the physical model. It also allows several project teams to work at the same time but at different places, for example teams from Wolfsburg, Chattanooga and Shanghai. Currently, the HoloLens software is still in the trial phase. In future, it will allow users to call up the entire Volkswagen brand model portfolio and to present different body versions of a model in all conceivable variants: the developers will then be able to transform a saloon virtually into an SUV, an estate car, a convertible or a coupe.

But Volkswagen isn't the only company using the virtual reality platform. Ford in fact has been at it for a long time and the development of the new generation of the Mustang, especially the cabin, was all thanks to the use of augmented reality. Everything from the gear knob to the design of the dashboard was ironed out with the use of virtual reality. Ford has admitted that using this technology has helped it get the car to the market faster, which just goes to show that the implementation of this technology really works.

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