Ford Immersive Vehicle Environment is an area of company’s design center that is normally off limits,. This virtual reality prototyping lab lets Ford designers walk around, sit in and interact with 3D models of their vehicles before a physical prototype has ever been made.
Ford’s Innovation for Millions day was a celebration of design and technology, and a clear indication of how important Ford sees its design center in Melbourne, Australia. Throughout the day, journalists from around the country were allowed access to several areas that are normally off limits, including the SYNC 2 test rig area below. Apart from getting a glimpse of some new safety and driver assist features that will soon launch on new models, the highlight of the day was the Ford Immersive Vehicle Environment (FIVE) lab.
The FIVE lab, one of two of its kind, is a virtual vehicle prototyping room. In it sits a dummy car rig with only a seat and steering wheel, an 80-inch 4K monitor and a computer rig. Users wear a pair of VR goggles and a glove, each of which are monitored by 19 motion tracking cameras dotted around the walls to capture the precise location and orientation of the wearer’s head.
Putting the goggles on, you can load up CAD models of a vehicle, place them in a variety of different environments, and then walk around the car as if you’re in a showroom. Sitting down into the test rig lets you experience the interior of the car, and the feeling is uncannily like sitting in a real car. The level of detail is extraordinary. Ford uses this virtual rig to test for quality, engineering issues, fit and finish of the CAD designs before they go to clay model or any other physical prototype.
You’re also free to plunge your head into the hood of the car to examine the engine within. The CAD models are detailed enough to include engine internals and interior finishes.