Ford is playing around with design by integrating virtual reality while creating cars. Currently, the company is experimenting with Gravity Sketch, a tool that allows Ford designers to draw 3D cars in VR. This could save time in the design process.
Normally, vehicle designers start with a 2D sketch, which is then scanned and rendered in 3D by a software to determine if it’s even applicable and possible to create. With Gravity Sketch, designers could skip this step completely. Using Gravity Sketch, designers could jump into the 3D process with a VR headset and controller. After putting on the headset and having a controller in each hand, the designers start “drawing” and shaping lines, curves, and surfaces of a car design in VR. Apparently, what used to take weeks will now only take hours.
According to CNET, Ford design manager Michael Smith recently showed off a wild racing car concept with the VR tools. With a pushrod-style suspension, a hybrid powertrain, intercoolers, and a turbocharger piping, this car had gadgets galore. Unfortunately, it was only designed to show off what the VR system was capable of, and not for production.
Smith said it took him approximately 40 hours to manifest the car via Gravity Sketch, but had he used Ford’s traditional design methods, this concept would have taken months.
Currently, about 30 to 40 Ford employees are experimenting with using Gravity Sketch to explore and design vehicles of the future. Although Gravity Sketch is available to the public using the HTC Vive VR headset, Ford has worked with the software company to customize it specifically for car designing.
“Now we have a Ford version, and there’s specificity and things that we’ve tweaked to make it more appropriate, and cooler, for us to use,” Smith said, according to CNET.
Using the 3D drawing tool, designers can work from any angle and rotate the model to see every single curve and edge of the vehicle.
“Jumping right into 3D gives us a 360-degree view of a vehicle as it is being created,” said Smith, according to engadget.
Smith also said there are so many things he can do in VR that he couldn’t do with a physical design.
“I can do things I can’t do in real life,” said Smith. “I can be sitting in the model and have my head sticking through the surface, and I can be be gun-sighting a line.”
It takes about eight hours of training for Ford designers to get the hang of Gravity Sketch, Smith noted, but more and more, universities are implementing VR design tools into students’ curriculums. Although designing cars with VR won’t be an immediate process that’s implemented into the car design process, it is something Ford will continue to experiment with.
“Think of this as prototypical of how we might operate in the future,” Smith said.
Filed Under: Virtual reality, Product design