08.04.16

BMW combines VR and mixed reality for product development

BMW mixed reality system

BMW has become the first car manufacturer to deploy a mixed reality system for product development by swapping constructed draft models for computer images.

According to BMW, incorporating HTC Vive VR headsets and a system created solely from components from the computer gaming into their vehicle design process has “greater flexibility, faster results and lower costs” than previous methods.

This headset’s features two high-resolution screens and a laser-based tracking system covering 5 x 5 metres in the application.

Created in house, system is used to provide visuals of vehicle functions and new interior designs. For example, operators can simulate drives through specific surroundings and see whether a display is optimised for use.

BMW uses Unreal Engine 4 software from Epic Games to product the computer gaming graphics, offering stable rendering of 90 frames per second. The computation is created by gaming computers featuring components including Intel Core i7 and two Nvidia Titan X graphic cards.

A HTC Vive Lighthouse tracking system fills a room with an invisible light field tracked by sensors on the VR headset and the controllers. The system’s lasers refresh the tracking field at intervals of just a few milliseconds to track every body movement.

This technology is combined with a reusable interior assembly using rapid prototyping to produce a mixed reality experience. Stereoscopic acoustic playback further creates a realistic experience of driving a BMW.

The system used by the manufacturer can be scaled to different workstations across the corporation, improving on a previous VR tests – used since the 1990s – that could only take place in dedicated facilities.

Developers located around the globe to can easily have their say in the decision-making process. Engineers and designers can then alter VR models and see the changes quickly in the design process, before drafts are built for further testing.

The system was tested throughout 2015, before its official deployment this spring. It is hoped that VR can be more widely incorporated throughout BMW in the near future, as the company further develops the headset hardware and software.