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How Ford and Microsoft Are Changing the Way Brands Design Cars

Car designing has never been easy, nor will it ever be. However, Ford and Microsoft are looking to improve the entire process, leading to quicker results and better products for their customers. As you’re about to learn, the companies’ new product could revolutionize the entire industry. Before long, this information will ultimately take the current auto news world by storm.

Over the years, engineers have been forced to create clay models of car attributes as they were attempting to visualize these inclusions and amenities. Whether they were looking to revise a vehicle’s mirrors, interior features, or even the bumper, they’d be forced to create a clay model of the applicable part. While this proved to be an effective method, many engineers lamented the fact that it could take them weeks to get these faux-parts created. If the part wasn’t a proper fit, frustration would surely settle in, as these engineers ultimately had to wait a significant amount of time for a clay model of a particular part that would ultimately be left on the cutting room floor.

Well, both Ford and Microsoft are hoping to improve this entire process. The two sides have been working together to design the Microsoft HoloLens. This innovative technology allows engineers “to see proposed virtual design elements as if these pieces were part of physical vehicles.” Operating similarly to a virtual reality program, engineers can now see their desired attributes pop up on a relevant vehicle in a matter of seconds.

“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,” said Jim Holland, Ford’s vice president of vehicle component and systems engineering (via a Ford press release). “Microsoft HoloLens is a powerful tool for designers as we continue to reimagine vehicles and mobility experiences in fast-changing times.”

The entire system is intuitive and easy-to-use. Engineers simply have to put on the wireless headset, and they can view holograms of their vehicles in “photo-quality backdrops.” They can choose from a number of amenities or revisions in their pursuit of the picture-perfect ride. Engineers can even walk around the vehicle as they’re attempting to visualize the applicable part from different angles and viewpoints. This was never going to be possible with the previous method, as it took much too long to produce each individual part.

“We may not be able to teleport yet, but HoloLens allows us to review full-size 3D designs with designers and engineers around the world in real time,” said Craig Wetzel, Ford’s manager of design technical operations. “And we’ve only just scratched the surface, so possibilities for the future seem almost limitless. This is very exciting.”

Relying on a built-in Windows 10 computer, the HoloLens is intended to speed up the entire designing process. In a matter of moments, engineers can determine whether a specific part will work or not. If it doesn’t, these individuals can quickly move on to the next option until they find the perfect fit. The system can even team up multiple users, assuring that they’re visualizing the same parts as they’re inspecting the prospective vehicle.

“With HoloLens, we can instantly flip through virtual representations to decide which direction they should go,” said Michael Smith, Ford’s design manager. “As a designer, you want to show, not just tell. This is much more compelling.”

The advantages don’t stop there. Engineers and designers can take audible notes on their visual creation, allowing them to remain hands-free at all times. Considering all of the advantages that this technology provides, both Ford and Microsoft are looking to see how the system can benefit them in other areas of the designing process.

“HoloLens allows a whole team of people to collaborate, share and experience ideas together,” said Elizabeth Baron, Ford’s virtual reality, and advanced visualization technical specialist. “Mixing virtual and physical models is exciting because it helps our designers and engineers communicate effectively and ideate to see what the future looks like earlier in the process. This allows great freedom and efficiency in how prototypes are created or changed.”

Predictably, the HoloLens is going to be useful in more than the automotive industry. Surgeons at the University College of London have already started capitalizing on the technology, as the unique 3D model provides them with an exclusive look at the human body. Instead of viewing generic 2D CT scans, doctors can rely on the technology to fully view the applicable organ, and this will provide them with clarity as they’re determining the best surgical route.

The system can truly be used in an array of different businesses. Microsoft suggests that the following industries could benefit from the technology:

  • AEC and Design
  • Education
  • Government and Utilities
  • Retail
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing


“Around the world, educators are exploring how holographic visualization can help increase students’ engagement and joy of learning,” Microsoft explained when visualizing how the technology could assist schools. “With Microsoft HoloLens and Windows Mixed Reality, students can discover new dimensions to their subjects and reach a deeper understanding when they learn in 3D.

“Approach curriculum from a new point of view when students can investigate, walk around, and delve into their subjects. HoloLens blends physical objects and environments with 3D data, helping to increase students’ engagement and understanding of abstract concepts.”

How does this end up impacting you, the consumer? Well, since these engineers don’t have to wait nearly as long for the clay versions of these amenities to be produced, they can resume and complete the designing process in a shorter amount of time. This means these new technologies will be released to the public sooner than usual. At the end of the day, who doesn’t appreciate when new technology is included in their cars?

The Microsoft HoloLens will surely revolutionize the entire industry, and these brands will never approach the designing process the same way.