Ford is now designing cars in mixed reality using Microsoft HoloLens

Darrell Etherington

Ford is making cars using Microsoft's HoloLens mixed reality headset, as part of a new test project the automaker is rolling out globally. The mixed reality design trial allows for rapid prototyping in a virtual environment, instead of having to create new physical models to see what new materials and angles will look like on a final design.

Old clay models aren't going the way of the dodo – using HoloLens means that designers can combine the physical and the virtual, to see how different materials will look on an actual scale version of the physical. This reduces the process of making and reviewing changes from weeks down to days, which is a massive time savings when it comes to car design.

HoloLens also means that collaborating can be digitized in clever ways, including allowing the recording and sharing of high-tech virtual mixed media "sticky notes," which can be appended to specific spots on the vehicle.

It isn't the first time that automakers have turned to virtual and mixed reality in developing their designs: electric Tesla competitor Lucid told me they've used HTC Vive and VR extensively in designing their vehicle, in order to help keep down the time and cost it takes to iterate between prototypes.

This is still just a test at this stage, but Ford is looking at how to bring HoloLens and mixed reality into more of its engineering work, the company says. It's definitely a smart fit for use of the still relatively nascent world of AR.

Epson's Moverio augmented reality headset was also designed specifically for this kind of use, but it was perhaps too early to provoke broad adoption. But HoloLens and system-level Windows 10 support could help make the difference.