Following a pilot program over the past year, Ford is now expanding its use of Microsoft's HoloLens mixed reality headset in its design process. As announced by Microsoft in a new blog post, Ford will tap HoloLens to simplify its car design process so designers can iterate more quickly.
One of the biggest areas HoloLens will have an impact is in the process of clay modeling. The models are an important part of the process of designing a car, Microsoft explains, but they can be expensive and time-consuming to create. Additionally, any changes further exacerbate costs. HoloLens will be combined with clay models, allowing designers to quickly iterate and experiment in a virtual environment before committing any changes to the physical clay model. In a Medium post, Ford VP Jim Holland explains this alone represents a big impact on the design process.
It's hard to overstate how radical this is. When developing a computer-designed part or crafting a full-size clay model, it could take days or weeks to finally look at what the designer wanted to see. Even the sketching process can soak up weeks of work before the team moves forward with an idea or determines it might not be feasible.
Ford will also use HoloLens to simplify the collaboration process for its global workforce. Using the headset, team members can more easily work together from around the globe on confidential designs without the risk of leaks.
HoloLens still isn't available to consumers, but Microsoft has already seen some success with the mixed reality headset among commercial partners. That momentum looks to continue, as Microsoft is already planning a HoloLens 2 with a dedicated custom AI chip and other hardware updates. However, the wait for the next HoloLens might be a long one, as it's been rumored to be coming as late as 2019. In the meantime, Microsoft is busy targeting the consumer market with its Windows Mixed Reality efforts.