LONDON -- AR/VR World -- The automobile sector has spent billions on advertising for decades, and it has been quick to adopt new video technology to push its messages. It's no surprise that automobile companies are early adopters of virtual reality, but not only for marketing and communications. They are also using it for design, specifically to solve complex space optimization problems.
Brian Waterfield, virtual reality and high-end visualization technical lead at Jaguar Land Rover, presented an interesting example of a productive video use case at AR/VR World this week. The company developed the LRX prototype for car shows, demonstrating a futuristic design with a sharp angle to the cabin space at the back. The design gathered attention (which was the goal) but that wasn't enough. Land Rover was keen to develop it into an actual product.
The problem was that to maintain the shape of the vehicle, the seat had to be higher. This left little space between the seat and the roof, and made it difficult for people to fit comfortably to into the cabin. Coincidentally, the designers working on the car happened to be 6'3" and 6'2", so they were especially motivated, according to Waterfield.
Simply lowering the seat affected the "command drive field", or the line of sight for the driver on all sides. It is important for the driver to be able to see the road past the edge of the vehicle's hood. They could have lowered the entire car, but that would have compromised Land Rover's "DNA," according to Waterfield. The brand is principally known for hardy vehicles that can go off-road and through water. Lowering the undercarriage would have made the vehicle less suited to off-road usage, which was not acceptable to the company.
So the designers determined the only option was to slim down "everything below the seat". This was extremely difficult to do, as most of the complexity in today's cars are in that area. There are also safety requirements that affect this part of a vehicle, including regulatory and compliance elements. However, using virtual reality versions of the vehicle, the designers were able to do it.
Today, the Land Rover Evoque -- the commercial version of the LRX -- has lower seats than other Land Rover vehicles, but its ground clearance is actually higher. This was made possible by developing a virtual reality version of the vehicle's undercarriage, which allowed engineers to "put their head into" the space, find small gaps and spaces and move undercarriage elements around virtually until they could pack everything in optimally.
Engineers also ended up using the same technology to design the storage area at the back of the car. Waterfield proudly informed us that an entire golf bag, including drivers, could go straight into the boot sideways.
As this approach became known in the company, it also had a further knock-on effect. Other teams used VR to reduce space requirements for the engine, and servicing teams have also started using VR tools: The company is now looking to develop a virtual version of their factory floor to optimize manufacturing processes.
And Jaguar Land Rover doesn't seem to be an exception. VR is being adopted by a number of automobile companies for a variety of purposes. The most common of these is on their websites, where prospective customers can view and configure multidimensional versions of the car they want.
I was also able to explore a new VR experience from Toyota at AR/VR World, where users can walk up to a virtual car and sit in the driver's seat, wearing a VR headset. The technology is from VR specialist ZeroLight, and it is working with Toyota and Audi currently. The companies can set up a trial of the car in shopping malls, dealerships or really any place with enough space to put a car seat, and allow users to "see" the whole car from both outside and inside.
Of course, the technology could also be adapted for training purposes and a variety of other uses. VR will likely be an important part of productive video in coming years, whether it succeeds in the consumer/entertainment sector or not.
— Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation