Virtual reality technologies have uses well beyond racing games.
The Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles have got people excited about what it will do for videogames, bringing forth what feels like full immersion into a different world. The virtual reality technology also has many uses in our own world, including car manufacturing. Ford is working with Oculus VR to more efficiently create car prototypes and evaluate cars in a virtual setting.
Ford isn’t the first to use the Oculus Rift outside of gaming; NASA uses Oculus Rift and an upgraded Kinect sensor from the Xbox One to remotely manipulate robotic arms.
Ford has been using similar rigs before by digitally developing cars through computer-aided design, but using Oculus Rift in collaboration with motion-capture technology from Vicon has greatly reduced the cost of the setup.
“The idea here is that auto designers can use this type of system to really look at the design of their vehicle in detail, whether its color, material or finish,” Vicon product manager Warren Lester said. “How does it look inside and outside, as well as in different environments and lights?”
Lester estimates the cost of one setup, including a four-camera rig using Vicon and Oculus Rift technology costs around $30,000 – a tiny fraction of which comes from Oculus VR. An Oculus Rift developer kit costs only $300.
“Ford can have a group of designers in Detroit reviewing a model while talking to designers in Cologne and Australia, all immersed in the same world at the same time,” Lester said.
One day we could see Oculus VR technology being widely adopted in medical fields and the military for varied uses. Until then, game developers are hard at work creating immersive games while NASA plays with robots and Ford tests out cars.