Ford expands 3D virtual reality car-design testing across globe

Designers in separate locations can now collaborate in real time

A few months ago, we told you about how Ford was tinkering with virtual reality technology to design cars in 3D, thanks to a partnership with London-based Gravity Sketch. Now the Blue Oval has apparently expanded the program to other design offices across the globe beyond Dearborn.

Ford says dozens of interior and exterior designers across five global Ford design studios are now experimenting with the technology. It's made possible via a feature in the technology developed for Ford called Co-Creation, which allows designers half a world away to simultaneously create, collaborate, evaluate and even walk around a 3D design in real time without leaving their individual work spaces.

Under the technology, designers leave aside their pens, pencils and sketchbooks — or rather, digital stylus and computer screen — in favor of a VR headset and controllers, with motion-tracking technology replicating the act of sketching with a pen and paper. The technology allows designers to draw, rotate, expand and compress and 3D sketch, with the ability for multiple designers to engage in the process and make changes in real time. In addition to improving collaboration, the technology promises to save designers time and reduce the need for global travel during the development process. Traditional vehicle design, from 2D sketch to 3D rendering, can take weeks, and the new virtual reality tool bypasses the 2D stage altogether and allowing for more 3D representations for evaluation.

Beyond Dearborn, Ford has rolled out the technology to designers in Palo Alto, California; Melbourne, Australia; Dunton, U.K.; and Merkenich, Germany. The company is still in the experimental phase but hopes to soon implement it for a production-intent vehicle, said Austin Stowe, Ford's design communications manager. The ability to play with ideas this way "is going to play a huge part, but it's about getting everybody on board," Stowe said.

Ford Information


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