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It’s time for a change for anyone working within design review teams across industries like automotive and aerospace. That change comes in the form of Virtual Reality and the potential it has to revolutionise the design review process. Ignoring it as a modern design tool will lead to companies becoming inefficient in their design review processes, which can, in turn, lead to a loss of competitiveness. The problem is, it’s tempting for companies to ignore the opportunities Virtual Reality brings and instead focus on current processes within their production cycles. We want to explore why this is the case and why there is a reluctance to embrace change in the form of Virtual Reality.

Is the visual quality of Virtual Reality devices actually good enough?

Go back 10 years and we didn’t even have a concrete Virtual Reality platform. Go back 5 years and we had only just started seeing the likes of the HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift and Sony VR headset making their way into market. Since then, HTC and Oculus have made leaps from a quality perspective; both the Vive and the Rift reaching a resolution of 2160 x 1200 pixels and a 110 degree field of view. These impressive figures provide stunning real-time renders, but there’s still a feeling, particularly for automotive companies, that we’re not quite there in terms of visual quality. 

It’s an understandable concern to have. Design teams require a high level of quality to be able to accurately map out designs that resemble real life models. By no means are current quality levels inadequate, they just need to be refined. The last couple of years has seen real growth in the usage of Virtual Reality headsets to the point where the technology is here to stay. It’s fair to say then that we could see considerable growth and investment in Virtual Reality hardware over the coming years as demand continues to increase.

Major manufacturers of head mounted Virtual Reality displays are already embracing this growth. HTC and Oculus are continuously upgrading their head mounted displays - HTC recently upped their resolution from 2160 x 1200 pixels to 2,880 x 1,660 pixels for the Vive Pro - so we are getting closer to replicating real life imagery through Virtual Reality headsets. This will make it increasingly easy for design teams to achieve the levels of accuracy desired during design reviews.

You can’t get a physical feel for a product in Virtual Reality.

At the moment, headset based Virtual Reality can’t replicate the full experience of a physical environment. Recent developments in haptic feedback are promising, but could take a while to become ingrained in design review teams’ approaches.

On the one hand, clay modelling is a trusted design review process because it is tangible and physical. On the other hand, it is still an expensive product across a full production cycle. A 1:6 size model could cost $100,000; if a design team wanted to create a full scale model it could cost an eye watering $300,000.

This is why we are keen advocates of a two pronged approach where Virtual Reality and clay modelling work in tandem with one another. At the moment design teams on average use 10% Virtual Reality and 90% clay; we feel this should be the opposite way around. Any design review with 90% clay is going to result in huge levels of waste material which will only raise the costs behind each production cycle. If Virtual Reality is the focal point of a company's design review, the number of clay models needed per production cycle is significantly reduced, keeping costs down and creating a more effective operating design review in the process.

It’s too difficult to turn all of our data into VR.

A key challenge we are encountering when we talk to automotive design review teams in particular is the complexity of preparing CAD data ready for Virtual Reality outputs. Whether you use Alias, Catia, Creo or other industry standard CAD files, it is currently a labour intensive job to prepare these datasets so they are ready for immersive Virtual Reality applications.

 Designers can take at least a day a week preparing the data ready for a weekly design review, which, over a 2 year production cycle, can translate into 100 days of man hours lost. Whilst some companies persist with this approach, others instead outsource data prep tasks to agencies to minimise the loss of labour hours.

While this could be a more efficient approach, it brings security risks to companies, particularly if the production cycle in question revolves around a new concept model not yet public. Not to mention the inevitable costs companies will have to pay to these agencies to secure their assets. It’s therefore fair to say that there is scope for design teams to improve data preparation tasks through the ability to hold all CAD assets and have 100% control over design processes.

We’ve put these issues right at the heart of SLIPSTREAM. The simple to use dashboard coupled with an automated data preparation pipeline allows you to spend less time on the arduous tasks of preparing your CAD data and more time on the design decisions that matter. With complete control over the features you wish to include in your pipeline, you’ll be in a greater position to develop the designs you truly want.

Get in touch with us for a conversation about how you can reap the benefits of VR for design review.

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