How Augmented Reality Is Already Building the Cars of the Future

Don't be surprised if new models start coming out even faster.

Microsoft/Ford Motor Vehicles

Your next car may be built using augmented reality, and it’s likely to be better for it.

Ford Motor Company announced last week that it has been swapping out the traditional, low-tech clay modeling method seen in car commercials in favor of Microsoft’s HoloLens for the past year.

Sooo passé.

Microsoft/Ford Motor Vehicles

According to Ford, this change in process cuts down the time it took to explore potential new features for future vehicles from weeks and months to mere hours. The augmented reality features the HoloLens possesses allows the car manufacturers to simply overlay various features on top of a standard car or clay model rather than having to fine-tune them manually.

While brand new car models typically come out every four to ten years, this kind of innovative technique could drastically speed up that process. This method, Ford employees say, is an effective tool for coming up with more precise design elements at a faster speed than was previously possible.

Designers use the HoloLens overlaid on a car model to experiment and fine-tune design details.

Microsoft/Ford Motor Vehicles

“What HoloLens gives us is simple ways of understanding extremely complex information,” Ford VR& Advanced Visualization Technical Specialist Elizabeth Baron explained in a promotional video.

Within the video, designers can be seen toggling between options for different features on the vehicle like side mirror and grille aesthetics.

Ford is the first automaker to publicly state that they’re using this kind of technology for this purpose. That said, various forms of virtual and mixed reality have been playing an increasingly important role in the manufacturing of cars for the company and its competitors.

In the past, companies including Ford and BMW have used virtual reality in the earliest stages of car design development. Tools like the Google Tilt Brush and Oculus Rift can be an asset that enable designers to generate sketches and prototypes in 3D. Earlier this year, Audi debuted a customer experience in VR that lets users customize their dream car and see what it’s like to actually be inside it. Though that was more of a gimmick, it’s still pretty awesome to imagine a day in the future where we’ll be able to use VR to buy our personal dream cars. It might be closer than you’d think.

If you liked this article, check out this video about spherical tires for self-driving cars.

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