Ford Expands Test of Microsoft HoloLens To Speed Car Design

Ford is expanding a test program in which its automotive designers use Microsoft HoloLens holographic goggles to design cars and, potentially, get them to market faster.

This is another example of businesses evaluating the use of augmented reality (AR) technologies, which juxtapose virtual images atop the real world, to save money and time.

In this case, HoloLens “mixed reality” goggles let designers see what a new feature like a different headlight design would look like on a new car without actually having to create a physical prototype. The expanded Ford-Microsoft relationship, which builds on Ford’s one-year pilot test of HoloLens, was announced in a Microsoft blog post earlier this week,

“The HoloLens lets me see 3D designs full scale on top of production vehicles,” Craig Wetzel, design technical designs manager for Ford (F) says in a Microsoft video announcing the news.

Related: Hololens May Aid in Space Station Repairs

As high tech as car design has become, much of that work is still done using clay models, which take time and money to build and change. With HoloLens, the Ford team is now able to blend 3D holograms of the car with clay models, as needed.

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Augmented reality products like HoloLens, Google Glass, or Facebook’s Oculus Rift headgear are also increasingly used in gaming. They give players a 3D view that melds both real things—that tree over there—with virtual objects like the cartoon Pokémon creature directly next to it.

But, as with the Ford example, these devices and the software powering them can be useful in the workplace. A repair technician wearing AR goggles could, for example, simultaneously see a machine that needs repair along with a maintenance manual page or even a video of how to fix it. That “mixed reality” view leaves the technician’s hands free to do the actual work.

Given all this potential business, AR goggles or helmets and the software that powers them, have become a hot battlefield with companies including Microsoft (MSFT), Google (GOOGL), Facebook (FB) making a push.

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