We take delight when a designer sketches a car on a piece of paper, and let’s hope this never changes. But virtual reality is emerging as a helpful tool that can speed up the design process by skipping the 2D stage and starting straight with a 3D model. Now, Ford’s designers are experimenting with virtual reality across five different design studios.
Both exterior and interior designers are creating cars in a virtual reality room, strapped to a special headset. Using a controller, designers gesture in the air to sketch a design, and the result is a virtual car they can rotate and view from any angle. They can place a virtual driver inside the vehicle, and even step inside the vehicle themselves to feel what it’s like inside the cabin.
Ford says the tool, made by a company called Gravity Sketch and which bears the same name, can accelerate the design process from weeks to hours. Typically, cars begin as a 2D sketch, become a high-quality illustration, and then transform into an advanced 3D model with computer software. Only then is the car evaluated in a VR environment.
Ford Design Manager Michael Smith said Gravity Sketch will enable more human-centric car designs. “Jumping right into 3D gives us a 360-degree view of a vehicle as it is being created,” he said in a statement.
Virtual reality is entering the automotive space in a variety of ways. At CES, Audi demonstrated tech that makes the drive experience part of a virtual reality game for passengers. When the car accelerates, brakes, or turns, the same happens in a game that features a spaceship flying through an asteroid field. Meanwhile, automakers are also experimenting with augmented reality. Nissan is using the tech to help drivers see around corners and behind buildings, for instance. A few years ago, we learned Ford was using hologram technology to create cars. With the help of wireless headsets, designers can place a hologram on top of a clay model or an actual car to see how different design changes would look.