Ford using software for vehicle design movies
It is a bright, sunny day and Richard Gresens is behind the wheel of a future Lincoln vehicle. Outside the car, figures are moving about on city sidewalks. Large buildings pass by, one by one. If he wanted to, he could be approaching a picturesque mountain in a matter of moments.
In reality, Gresens isn’t going anywhere. In fact, he’s sitting on a car seat that is attached to a short platform that sits on the floor inside of Ford’s Product Development Center. Covering his head and eyes is a type of electronic headgear through which the Ford chief designer can experience a virtual vehicle traveling through a virtual world.
Gresens is experiencing a technology that the automaker calls immersive Virtual Review or iVR. Ford is borrowing from the motion picture industry to enhance its own virtual design tools. The same high-tech software used to animate the Star Wars character Yoda and create the movie Shrek is now helping Ford designers to improve the interiors of its vehicles for consumers.
Gresens says iVR was used early in his vehicle program, well before any prototype parts were made, to help verify concept designs. In one instance, it resulted in the repositioning of some interior components.
Another benefit was being able to stand outside the car and the see concept exterior and interior together, as one virtual vehicle, said Gresens, a Ford chief designer. It is really important that the two have a strong design relationship. We were able to confirm that the excitement of our exterior also is communicated by the interior.
The advanced software is capable of creating a virtual environment that includes bright sunlight, cloudy conditions, rain, snow, reflections, and the animation of traffic and scenery to give the illusion that the virtual vehicle is moving.
Inside the car, changes can be made to the color and texture of interior surfaces.
A user’s actual motions, such as reaching for a virtual audio control, are instantly duplicated by the computer-generated world. Want to check your blind spot? Just turn your head as you normally would, and you’ll see it. Even the size of users can be altered to gain a larger, or smaller, perspective.
"This technology is really amazing," said Baron. "It has endless possibilities. It enables Ford designers to evaluate many vehicle exterior and interior alternatives in a virtual environment from any location — in the driver’s seat or hundreds of feet away from the vehicle — with animated characters and animated vehicles."