Holograms may still seem like technology from a sci-fi movie to many people, but they’re a regular part of some Ford designers' days. Ford and Microsoft teamed up and now Ford's design team uses Hololens goggles with software specifically designed to make adjusting and altering car designs easier. This makes it simple for designers to work remotely and collaborate on the automotive creation process.
A Mixture of the Real World and the Digital World
The goggles work by allowing the designer to make adjustments to the car when they put on the goggles. It’s like the newly designed car is sitting right there in the room with them, according to CNN. Someone working in a room in a different office or around the world can then see these changes as long as they have a pair of Hololens, too. Designers can even leave voice recordings for peers to reference. This allows collaboration across continents or simply across offices.
The goggles don’t erase the world around the designers. Instead, it allows the person wearing the Hololens to still see the walls, floor, furniture, and other surroundings. From there, the designers can make changes to the car and work on new elements and adjust the current design.
Before this, designers would have to create something on a computer screen, print it off on a piece of paper, and then hold it up to a real, physical car, according to CNN. From there, they would take to clay models. The Hololens allows them to do everything digitally, reducing the amount of time taken and work done.
The Future of Automotive Design
This isn’t the first time that holograms have made their way into the automotive industry. Genesis uses it in its digital owner’s manual, Jaguar provides virtual test drives, and Lexus has used the technology on its concept cars. Porsche even uses hologram technology on its assembly line, according to Wired. That being said, using it in automotive design is still very new. It’s likely to spread, though.
Think about it. The amount of time it takes to get a design change done to a particular model takes many hours. While the Hololens technology doesn’t make the decision-making process go any faster, it does streamline the actual design process.
“In today’s world, my design team might make a mirror that we have to digitally render, send to the engineers so they can study it, and then make changes based on their feedback,” Craig Wetzel, Ford's manager of design technical operations told Wired. “That takes time, and we find ourselves out of phase there a lot. But placing engineering and design in the same space, a process we call co-creation, streamlines that interaction.”
This means, that more and more automakers are bound to pick up on holographic car design. Wired noted that Ford is the only company at the moment using the technology, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see that change in the future. In fact, it seems like this would greatly reduce the amount of money and time it takes to produce well-designed vehicles. It adds a flexibility to the industry that wasn’t there before.
Oddly enough, Wetzel told Wired that it feels “more natural and humanistic,” which is unexpected for a newer technology like holograms. He went on to say, “It’s how we would want to create. It’s also more fun—both fun to use and fun to share with others.” If it yields positive results for Ford’s next generation of vehicles, we’re all for it.