A BMW executive in the United States is sitting at his desk with an HTC Vive strapped to his face. At first glance, you might think he is piloting a spaceship shooting down enemies in a virtual reality game, but he’s actually doing work. At the BMW headquarters in Germany, an R&D team is giving him a demonstration of a digitally produced vehicle prototype that was created using the Unreal Engine in VR.
This is the future of vehicle development, at least according to Unreal and BMW. In a recent post on the Unreal Engine blog, Dana Crowley indicates:
The adoption of this computer system makes it possible to save a great deal of time and effort, especially during the early stages of development. VR investigations could previously only be conducted at costly specialized facilities. By incorporating consumer electronics, the developers gain an unprecedented degree of flexibility, because any modifications can be implemented and tested very quickly. In addition to this, developers around the globe will be able to take part in the decision-making process from their own office without having to travel too far. Only once the draft designs have been approved with the help of the 3D headsets will they actually be built for further testing.
…This lends itself ideally to the BMW strategy with its focus on innovative technologies and digitization. Vehicle functions and new interior designs can quickly be modeled with the aid of the visual experiences. This makes it possible to simulate drives through a city while testing what the all-round view of the surrounding area is like or whether a display is poorly legible or awkward to reach depending on the viewing angle or seat position. All the time, the development engineer has the impression of sitting in a real car in a real driving situation.
BMW has used VR to develop cars since the ’90s, but now the company is using Vive and its advanced display and tracking technology for greater flexibility in how the technology is used throughout the company.