Volvo is using development tools and hardware from the gaming world as part of new research intended to improve self-driving car safety.
Volvo is using a mix of VR hardware and the Unity real-time rendering software in driveable test cars. These models are being run on a closed test tracks to safely simulate real world driving scenarios.
This new project is an arm of a partnership between Volvo and the Finnish VR hardware company Varjo. Last year they made it possible to drive a real car with a mixed reality headset.
The project members have added a full body haptic suit. This allows for precise motion tracking. The suit can also cause muscle restriction in the wearer as they would experience in a real emergency stop.
This hardware has been incorporated into a group of XC90 SUVs and stationary simulators. In the actual vehicles overlays a virtual images on top of the real world. So, the system can simulate an animal crossing the road.
The project is only in the early stages and hasn’t yet produce findings that will be used in production cars.
In the past, almost all car design has been done with the help of large clay models. These models helped visualize new vehicles as they are being developed. Computer assisted renderings, while useful, still only allow a flat representation of a new design, and don’t allow one to conceptualize an object in space. But augmented reality is going to change that.
It’s amazing we can combine the old and the new, clay models and holograms, in a way that both saves time and allows designers to experiment and iterate quickly to dream up even more stylish, clever vehicles,” says Jim Holland, Ford’s head of component and systems engineering, in a release. “Microsoft HoloLens is a powerful tool for designers as we continue to reimagine vehicles and mobility experiences in fast-changing times.”
Ford announced today that its designers have spent the last year using Microsoft’s HoloLens to help them quickly change the size, shape, and texture of different design elements without the need to spend weeks or even months working up a new clay model. Using wireless headsets, the team sees a hologram laid over either a clay model or an actual car. Designers can then scroll through various design changes to see how they look from different.
While some may believe that this may all be “public relations fluff” that benefits both Ford and Microsoft, the technology does allow for easy and rapid changes to the renderings of new car models. While some design in the past has employed VR and its bulky gear (goggles, gloves and their wires), with holograms images can be overlaid onto physical objects brings new possibilities to the design floor—and all without the need for obtuse hardware.
Nintendo’s cult classic Mario Cart—specifically Mario Kart Arcade GP—recently got a full virtual reality upgrade including a full size simulator vehicle and headgear for an immersive gaming experience where players can play the game in a whole new way as their favorite driver: Mario, Peach, Bowser or any of the other classic characters.
While the original arcade game has been available for over a decade, this version is part of a new facility being built in Shinjuku, Tokyo by Bandai Namco Entertainment called VR Zone. The ribbon cutting date is set for July 14th and the space will include other VR versions of games along with Mario Cart.
The VR equipment is an extrapolation of the HTC Vive hardware. The first-person Mario Kart game not only uses kart-like arcade simulator seats with pedals and wheels, but also VR head gear, headphones, and wearable sensors.
This isn’t an official Nintendo release and there are few details about changes to the actual game. The 38,000 square foot gaming space will include other popular titles, of course setup for VR, some of these include Gundam, Ghost in the Shell and Dragon Ball.
Unfortunately world-wide Mario Cart fans will have to travel to Japan to experience this one of a kind VR racing experience.