Volvo Cars, along with Finnish augmented reality headsets maker Varjo, has created a world-first mixed reality approach to evaluating prototypes, designs and active safety technologies, showcasing the future of car development. This collaboration will be further strengthened by the Volvo Cars Tech Fund’s decision to invest in Varjo. The Tech Fund is the car maker’s venture capital fund, which invests in high-potential technology start-ups, the company noted. A patent has been filed for the application of this technology, said Volvo.
Volvo Cars and Varjo are said to have made it possible to drive a real car while wearing a mixed reality headset for the first time. This seamlessly adds virtual elements or complete features that seem real to both the driver and the car’s sensors, for development purposes, Volvo said. Until now, no other car maker has been able to do this, it added.
The Varjo XR-1 headset, which was also launched today, provides photorealistic mixed or virtual reality at a high-definition resolution better than anything currently available. As such, the XR-1 can radically reduce development timeframes by creating the new ability to evaluate features and designs almost immediately, explained Volvo. Compared to its predecessor, the XR-1 adds high-definition cameras to the headset and enables mixed reality. This allows Volvo Cars designers and engineers to ‘drive’ future cars and evaluate all features in a simulation environment many years before they exist.
The XR-1 headset is also claimed to allow Volvo Cars engineers to develop and evaluate active safety solutions more easily. Safety experts are able to drive real cars while wearing the headset at Volvo’s research facilities in Sweden, testing virtual active safety systems imposed via augmented reality on the real-life environment. Highly accurate eye-tracking technology embedded inside the XR-1 makes it easy to assess how drivers use a new functionality and whether they are distracted in any way. This technology-based approach to measuring distraction levels ensures that Volvo Cars can develop new features without causing additional distraction.
Henrik Green, CTO, Volvo Cars, said the company can start evaluating designs and technologies while they are literally still on the drawing board with this mixed reality approach. Instead of the usual static way of evaluating new products and ideas, concepts can be tested on the road immediately, he added. Green further said that this approach offers considerable potential cost savings by identifying priorities and clearing bottlenecks much earlier in the design and development process.
From the very beginning, the company’s vision has been to create a product that can seamlessly merge the real and the virtual together, noted Niko Eiden, Founder and CEO, Varjo. He said the incredibly-advanced ways in which Volvo Cars uses the XR-1 show that Varjo’s technology enables things that have been previously impossible. “Together with Volvo we have started a new era in professional mixed reality,” said Eiden.