Ford is using Microsoft’s HoloLens to change the way cars are designed

Microsoft’s HoloLens celebrated had its first birthday earlier this year, and the company believes it can change all sorts of everyday activities through the power of augmented reality. That includes potential applications in the car world.

Virtual car design has gotten one step closer to reality, though some industry traditions are being kept around. Thus clay models are being used alongside virtual media to create mixed media. Microsoft calls this “mixed reality” and defines it as “the result of blending the physical world with the digital world.”

Lorraine Bardeen, General Manager, Microsoft HoloLens and Windows Experiences, shared news of the company’s latest collaboration with automaker Ford, which is “embracing the digital transformation of the modern workplace across the company to make people’s lives better in vehicles today while exploring evolving mobility solutions such as autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.”

One cited example is grille design — designers were able to speed the process of development from days with multiple physical models to just hours with a HoloLens and just one physical model. Designers can use the system to view their work in three dimensions without engaging in the time-consuming process of making a physical model.

In the car industry, full-size clay mockups of new designs are typically built and shown to executives for approval, but doing it all digitally could allow designers to incorporate any changes more easily. It would also save a lot of clay.

Ford already uses full-on virtual reality headsets to allow groups of designers to go over new cars — even when they’re not on the same continent. Teams can share their findings and notes in confidentiality with a lowered risk of leaking prototype designs.

The advantage of HoloLens is that it allows users to view virtual projections overlaid onto the actual environment. That makes it potentially easier to use in the real world.

Don’t be surprised to see automotive applications if it ever goes mainstream, though, if for no other reason than so automakers can feel good about being swept up in the technological zeitgeist.

Update: Included information on Microsoft’s collaboration with Ford to make mixed media car design a reality.