May 29, 2019
Using augmented and virtual reality for the best Volvo cars possible
It is almost impossible to believe, so crisp is the image in front of your eyes. It shows a photorealistic Volvo interior, but one that is slightly different from our current cars. It is as if in today’s reality, you’re getting a preview of a future Volvo.
Which is, of course, exactly what it is. It is also completely artificial: the image in front of your eyes only exists in the digital realm so far. Thank the XR-1 headset for that: a virtual and mixed reality (VR/XR) headset with an unprecedented high-definition resolution. The XR-1 was designed and built by Varjo, a Finnish start-up, and they are our newest partners in developing the best Volvo cars possible.
Creating a photorealistic digital version of a next generation Volvo interior is just one example of what the XR-1 is capable of. The benefits of such technology are obvious: our design colleagues no longer have to wait for feedback on their ideas until an actual concept interior has been mocked up. Instead, they can get input at a much earlier stage and make any adjustments quickly, and see how a new design looks in different environments: in sunny weather, under the trees or on a cloudy day.
The XR-1 gets even more fascinating once it is used for mixed or augmented reality (AR). Our engineers can now drive a real car while wearing a mixed reality headset, and seamlessly add virtual elements or features that seem real to both the driver and the car’s sensors.
Think of our safety experts for example, who can use the technology to develop and evaluate active safety features. They can drive a real car at our test track in Sweden while wearing the XR-1 headset and try out virtual active safety systems and scenarios that are imposed via augmented reality on the real-life environment.
From a development point of view, all this is beyond anything we have ever been able to do (or any car maker, for that matter). So we made sure to file for a patent, protecting this unique approach to developing automotive technology as our own. Most importantly, this type of approach offers the potential to radically reduce development times, saving us valuable money better spent elsewhere.
“With this mixed reality approach, we can start evaluating designs and technologies while they are literally still on the drawing board,” says our chief technology officer Henrik Green. “Instead of the usual static way of evaluating new products and ideas, we can test concepts on the road immediately, as well as identifying priorities and clearing bottlenecks much earlier in the design and development process.”
Meanwhile, for Varjo this partnership amounts to more than just an industrial application of their high-end headsets. Because we are so impressed with their skills, our Volvo Cars Tech Fund has decided to make an investment in the company. After all, high-potential technology start-ups like Varjo are exactly the type of companies our venture capital fund wants to invest in.