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Ford Expands Uses of Virtual Reality

September 5, 2012 | Telepresence Options
Ford Australia creates the Holodeck

Ford Australia engineers and designers are living in a virtual world, and loving it.  The company has unveiled its new Virtual Reality Centre, a high tech digital evaluation and design environment

31 August 2012
By Mike Bantick, IT Wire,

Years before a Ford vehicle shines on stage at a car show or arrives in dealer showrooms, Ford researchers are hard at work behind the scenes, building virtual vehicles that allow the company to design, analyse and enhance the driver experience before a physical vehicle ever exists.

Known as the Powerwall (Trekers would have preferred the term Holodeck, maybe next time) the new Virtual Reality Centre houses a 6m x 3m screen used to evaluated 3D models of proposed cars.

According to Ford the result is a superior mark of craftsmanship and refined finish that characterises Ford vehicles. The virtual process also speeds up production times while helping reduce costs. Using virtual reality tools, engineers and designers can make consumer-friendly adjustments before the building of a vehicle starts.

The state-of-the-art facility is the same as that developed by Ford in Dearborn. The Ford US team even received a call from NASA asking for a tour of the facility, which has resulted in on-going collaboration.

The Ford Australia VRC is one of just three in the company's global design centres. The other two are in Dearborn, Michigan and Cologne, Germany.

"In this virtual world, we can evaluate early vehicle design and its engineering against a backdrop of virtual conditions and literally experience a complete vehicle years before it is built and a customer drives it out of the showroom," according to Adam Frost, Chief Engineer,  Global Engineering Services and APA Digital Innovation at Ford Motor Company.

"This helps us to create a car, pickup or crossover that provides the perfect environment for the driver and its occupants. From a customer's perspective, before even out first prototype is built, this allows us to finely tune the customer experience."

The VRC is capable of real-time image manipulation, with realistic shading, shadow generation and textural mapping.

Powerwall technology creates not only life-size static images for detailed reviews of new models but also full virtual animation shows. Operators can show the vehicle moving, the doors opening and closing, the instruments functioning and the driving controls operating.

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