Using Autodesk VRED, Ford has become the first automotive company to equip its design team with 4K real-time virtualization.
In recent years Ford Motor Company has become a leader in exploring new technology for design and engineering. The company’s newest initiative is the Ford Immersive Vehicle Environment (FIVE) Lab, led by Elizabeth Baron, Ford Virtual Reality and Advanced Visualization technical specialist. The FIVE Lab allows Ford to virtually test in ultra-high definition thousands of product design details under simulated conditions. The Lab offers Ford’s global team of designers and engineers the opportunity to collaborate on those products in real-time.
“We create a virtual vehicle that represents a holistic view of our product at any phase of development, then we allow our designers and engineers, our ergonomists, our mechanical engineers and anyone with a specific function or responsibility in the vehicle to check it out and assess the state of design at any point in the product development process,” says Baron. “Our goal is to bring people together in a way that is collaborative and global, and we share this perspective with stakeholders worldwide in order to allow everyone to participate in the design.”
The FIVE Lab recently started using Autodesk VRED for Automotive, new virtual prototyping software for real-time 3D product visualization. “The way we bring in data and our approach to creating our virtual environment is pretty streamlined, and we’ve experienced success getting data from any environment into VRED,” says Baron. “We also have a lot of flexibility with variant sets and materials, so we can add in animations and automations into our virtual environment, represent the vehicle in any color, and create functions that a person would see when looking at the car—all with a strength of visual quality that presents us with a really powerful visualization.”
Baron says the main benefit from using VRED is that the Ford employee responsible for each specific discipline can look at a vehicle “with everyone else’s inputs and see the data more holistically. We can also alter any aspect of the product in real-time and have the ability to represent any potential reality for that product at any point in time in an extremely efficient manner.”
Hundreds of design alternatives are now examined in within one review, says Baron. “This was unheard of prior to doing assessments virtually. We can test 20 different alternatives for one design and 20 different alternatives for another design, put them all in different driving and environmental conditions.”
Baron says when Ford was considering VRED, the real-time ray tracing was “especially intriguing.” Autodesk claims Ford is the only automotive and industrial design company using real-time ray tracing in an immersed environment with 4K displays. “It is extremely powerful for our team to highlight visual quality that is emotive and attractive and that allows our customers to respond at a primary level and establish a connection with their Ford or Lincoln product,” adds Baron.
The FIVE Lab is just getting started with the use of realistic displays, Baron says. “The future is mixed, and in that I mean mixed reality, virtual reality and augmented reality. There is a lot of work in the industry happening on augmented reality. That space will be affected by not only what we do for engineering, but also for marketing, sales and other areas of the company. We have opportunities to leverage devices and mobile headsets in future immersive environments where you need calibrated cameras, and as these devices become simpler and easier to use, the continuum for total virtuality and total physicality will keep blurring.”