BMW has just announced a new partnership that will incorporate virtual reality into the automotive design process.
BMW recently made a fascinating announcement. According to a report from PC Magazine, the company has become the first automaker to incorporate a mixed reality system made entirely by a videogame manufacturer into the vehicle design process.
The company announced that it would begin incorporating the HTC Vive virtual reality headset into elements of its design process. Recent advances in the virtual reality field have quickly outpaced the VR systems that automakers have traditionally used, and BMW is first in line to embrace the technology.
The automaker says that the adoption of the new HTC Vive VR system will save both time and effort during the early stages of the development process. Previously, virtual reality testing was only available to developers at expensive specialized facilities. The shift to using consumer electronics allows designers to test and incorporate modifications on a much faster and cheaper scale.
Another upside of incorporating consumer VR headsets is the improvement in collaboration. Designers from around the world can all contribute to the process, and it would be as if they were testing the newest models out themselves.
The company has incorporated virtual reality systems into the design process since the 90’s, but its capabilities at the time were extremely limited. Virtual reality has come a long way since then, and the most current systems allow designers to feel more confident that the model is close to representing the real thing.
The company hopes to test new vehicle functions and interior layouts to give designers a real sense of how the car would feel as they sat inside. Without ever leaving a building, engineers could take a virtual test drive of a new car around the city.
The company says that they began using the HTC Vive developer kits on new projects since last fall. The adoption of consumer virtual reality headsets will help speed up the prototyping process, and could very well result in some wild new designs that could help the automaker maintain its distinctive edge.
A press release from BMW describing the new system can be found here.