BMW Using HTC Vive to Test Out New Car Features – PC Magazine
Building prototypes can be expensive, especially when you’re talking about a 2-ton vehicle. What size should those dials be? How about that touch-screen display? Can the driver see those alerts over the steering wheel? Using VR, in particuarly the HTC Vive headset, BMW can test out different scenarios and features without physically building them.
And while the $800 price tag on the HTC Vive might be a bit steep for the average consumer, it’s not a big deal for a corporation like BMW, which said “VR investigations could previously only be conducted at costly specialized facilities.”
It will also save the car maker some money when it comes to travel expenses because “developers around the globe will be able to take part in the decision-making process from their own office without having to travel too far,” they said.
To test things out, developers strap on an HTC Vive headset and “ride” in an apparatus built to look and feel like the front half of a BMW vehicle, which takes them on a simulated drive through various locales in diverse situations. They can see 360-degree views of the car to determine if the dashboard clock is impossible to read from the driver’s seat or if a passenger can’t comfortably reach the stereo dials, for example.
“Only once the draft designs have been approved with the help of the 3D headsets will they actually be built for further testing,” according to BMW.
Sporting dual 1,200-by-1,080 screens that capture 90 frames per second, the $799 HTC Vive features 32 headset sensors for precision 360-degree motion tracking. BMW’s headsets also run Epic Games’s Unreal Engine 4. “The completely realistic vehicle impression produced by this method is so far unique in the automotive industry,” the company said.
Rival car makers, meanwhile, have turned to augmented reality for the sales part of the business. Using Google’s Project Tango tech, Fiat Chrysler buyers could see different vehicle configurations instantly in the showroom. Volvo, meanwhile, is toying with the idea of adding Microsoft HoloLens headsets to dealerships.
If $800 for the Vive is indeed too pricey, you can get some hands-on time with it at a local Microsoft store. You have to be 18 to try it out, though.