Ford Gears Up for HoloLens Global Expansion

Ford is driving the future of mixed reality and motor vehicles.

The massive car company has announced an expansion around their use of Microsoft’s HoloLens, a VR headset. Ford was an early adopter of the technology, and now with this increased use, engineers will be able to quickly and continually push boundaries when it comes to style and performance.

Previously, HoloLens was only used at Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan facility. Now the technology will be extended for global testing and development.

Car designers utilize the HoloLens by wearing it and moving around an actual vehicle, scanning and mapping the outline and environment better than any GPS can. From there, holograms and images are rendered from whichever angle the wearer sees them, so one can easily see what a new addition would like on a physical example right in front of them. This means designers can create several digital outlines throughout the course of a single day, rather than waiting weeks for a clay model to be updated.

“It’s amazing we can combine the old and the new–clay models and holograms–in a way that both saves time and allows designers to experiment and iterate quickly to dream up even more stylish, clever vehicles,” says Jim Holland, Ford vice president of vehicle component and systems engineering. “Microsoft HoloLens is a powerful tool for designers as we continue to reimagine vehicles and mobility experiences in fast-changing times.”

Design elements that can be augmented with a HoloLens include side mirrors, grilles, or vehicle interiors, among a host of other parts.

The HoloLens has been tailored to allow designers and engineers the ability to work together seamlessly. For example, when designers use the device to add a mirror, they can see how it looks in comparison to the whole car. At the same time, an engineer can see the customer’s field of view and determine if the mirror is placed in the right spot.

“HoloLens allows a whole team of people to collaborate, share and experience ideas together,” says Elizabeth Baron, Ford’s advanced visualization specialist. “Mixing virtual and physical models is exciting because it helps our designers and engineers communicate effectively and ideate to see what the future looks like earlier in the process. This allows great freedom and efficiency in how prototypes are created or changed.”

In addition to this global design test, Ford is looking to see how HoloLens can be used for more engineering development, as it’s currently a design-heavy instrument.