Virtual Reality in the Automotive Industry

Virtual reality is not a new concept; it was described in science fiction as early as the 1930s, and the first attempt to make it a reality, a multi-sensory cinematic experience called the Sensorama, was prototyped in 1962. However, it was the advance of digital technology that really brought the idea to life.

Today, consumers can experience virtual reality with very basic equipment – your smartphone can be accessorised with cardboard, lenses and other household equipment to create a virtual reality viewer very cheaply. But it’s not just consumers who are embracing virtual reality – manufacturers are taking it on, too.

Image of 3D design

At Dean Group, we’ve been using 3D simulation in our design process for years, allowing parts to be fully modelled and simulated prior to production. This process allows for the elimination of potential quality problems such as porosity and shrinkage defects, and increases the flexibility of our designs, as we can repeat the simulations until the design meets our exacting standards, without wasting material on repeated construction of prototypes. It can also be used to understand the interaction with other components before production. This, of course, cuts down both the time needed and the cost of the development process.

Woman in virtual reality headset

Virtual reality takes this concept a step further; instead of merely looking at an image on a monitor, you can step into the image and look around at will. This means that you can easily look at the larger picture of your project, zoom in to look at individual parts, and walk around it at will to get a clearer image of your design before it even goes into production.

Automotive manufacturers are already implementing virtual reality interfaces to help customers experience their car before purchase. These interfaces allow customers to choose various bespoke options, and see exactly what it will be like to sit inside the car as well as viewing it from outside.

Ferrari dealerships introduced virtual reality interfaces on a tablet to their dealerships last year, beginning in Australia and New Zealand. The interface allows customers to digitally change paint colours, wheels and tyres, brake kits, and digitally view the mechanics beneath the bodywork. This means that the dealership’s naturally restricted stock of supercars does not restrict the customer’s choice in any way; they can still see and purchase the exact vehicle of their dreams.

3D rendered image of a car

As the concept spreads, this could naturally lead the way towards an unprecedented amount of customisation; rather than simply viewing the vehicles available at the dealership, a customer could use a virtual reality interface to completely customise a vehicle to their exact requirements. One day, in the far off future, vehicles may all be built on demand based on such simulations, which would of course be a drastic change to the industry.

The more effective, realistic and popular virtual reality becomes, the more it seems likely that it will influence a wide range of industries, from entertainment to manufacture. At Dean Group, we’ll be following these developments closely; we pride ourselves on offering the most up-to-date services, such as our innovative ELITE Process and our rapid prototyping facilities, to ensure that your parts are produced in the most efficient, accurate and affordable way possible.  For more information, contact us on 0161 775 1633.

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