Why Ford is test-driving Microsoft's HoloLens globally for faster car design

Ford is combining clay models with holographic projections to design its new cars.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Ford says Microsoft's HoloLens has already helped its designers and engineers cut testing times significantly.

Image: Microsoft/Ford

Auto maker Ford will begin testing Microsoft's HoloLens across the globe to accelerate its car design processes.

Ford has been piloting HoloLens for the past year at the design studio in its Dearborn, Michigan, campus where it's been using a combination of traditional clay models and HoloLens holograms to test new shapes, textures and sizes of future vehicles.

According to Ford, it's helped designers and engineers cut testing times for new designs from weeks and months to minutes and hours. The company will now be rolling out HoloLens to Ford designers around the world.

"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," said Jim Holland, Ford vice president, vehicle component and systems engineering, in a statement.

Others car makers testing Microsoft's HoloLens for design and engineering include Volvo and Volkswagen, while lift maker ThyssenKrupp is using it for repairs, and NASA has been testing it for use on ISS, and to select potential sites on Mars to build bases.

Ford's designers use HoloLens to view holograms of different designs and flick through variations that are projected either onto a car or a clay model.

They're also using it to see how drivers would experience their designs, such as how a new side mirror looks and how the driver would see the vehicle's surroundings.

Ford's Holland says designers can change side mirror designs in "near real time" with HoloLens. They're also using it to rapidly assess different looks for grilles.

Ford's is an appealing story for Microsoft because it demonstrates how a business can integrate its augmented-reality tech into existing business processes.

Ford is also exploring whether it can use HoloLens in other engineering development processes.

Microsoft says HoloLens technology lets Ford create more freely and iterate designs more quickly. Source: Microsoft

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