Vehicle manufacturers usually work together in international teams. In the planning and design phase, interior and exterior designs of new prototypes are created, discussed and manually adjusted using 2D mockups and clay models. Teams from different continents meet in one place for this, resulting in high travel and & logistics costs as well as physical waste products.
With XR, work can be done digitally, but still immersively on the actual model. Team members can share ideas, give feedback and finalize the model together in real time, as if they were physically present. XR’s immersive capabilities create a collaborative work atmosphere that bridges spatial distances and enables efficient and collaborative working.
Kia Motors has always been a leader in the automotive industry when it comes to implementing new and innovative technologies into the design process. Using Varjo’s high-end virtual reality and mixed reality headsets and Autodesk VRED industry software, Kia’s design and visualization process can be moved into a fully immersive photorealistic environment. This means that global design reviews can be reduced from days to a single hour.
Magical things happen at the Europe Design Center of Kia Motors – the South Korean automotive company. Thomas Unterluggauer is the center’s Creative Manager CGI. He wears the Varjo mixed reality headset while working on a Kia model in the studio. He moves seamlessly between the real car and the virtual car in front of him, making changes as he goes.
What he sees and does in the Kia studio was previously impossible.
When Kia’s European team tried Varjo’s VR headset for the first time, they were blown away by the clarity and resolution compared to all other headsets. “For the first time, we could literally see the metallic flakes in the paint and perceive the depth and quality of the material shaders. We could see the beauty of the details more than ever before in the virtual world. Varjo is the only device that achieves this level of clarity and sharpness,” says Unterluggauer.
Seeing these additional details on the exterior of the vehicle was a breakthrough. But when Unterluggauer and the team learned about Varjo’s mixed reality device, they realized it could also take their design work to a new level.
Using VR and XR, designers can work with their colleagues in the familiar physical design space and collaborate on photorealistic, full-scale virtual car models while seeing their hands and bodies. In an immersive mixed reality experience like this, they can converse as they work, provide instant feedback, and review results more closely.
“Immersive collaboration works much more naturally than we expected. It’s something I’ve always wanted, and with Varjo’s xR headsets, it’s now a reality”– Gregory Guillaume, Vice President of Design at Kia Motors Europe
At the end of a mixed reality session, Unterluggauer takes off the Varjo headset and looks back into the room. “It’s fascinating how quickly you get used to the mixed reality. You think for a moment that reality is wrong, that something is missing. It’s something completely different than any other experience I’ve ever had in VR,” he says.
And there it is again, the magic.
Kia’s Europe Design Center in Frankfurt am Main is helping to change the perception of the Kia brand on the continent and around the world. The dedicated team of designers creates concept vehicles of the future as well as production models for Europe and the global market.
The ability to design and collaborate more photorealistic VR and XR in their working tool Autodesk VRED is an absolute game changer for Kia’s designers.
Until recently, the automotive design process relied on 2D representations on screens and powerwalls, followed by physical clay models and prototypes to further refine and develop surfaces. As head of the studio’s digital department, Frank Hübbe knows all too well that a 2D model is always a projection that lacks volume.
“Even though you can work efficiently in 2D with a keyboard, mouse, and screen, you’ll never get a fully realistic impression of the car.”
Today, Kia Europe designers are augmenting their entire workflow with virtual and mixed reality. Teams are using VR and MR technologies to make their visualization work more effective and present projects in new ways.
For example, designers can directly compare a virtual model to a physical model in the same room, or even add virtual details to an existing clay model.
“With VRED and Varjo, you have the context of the real world and the flexibility of the virtual world.”
The integration of Varjo and Autodesk VRED software is the perfect foundation for Kia. But in the midst of a global pandemic, the ability to work remotely and reliably with teams around the world has never been more important.
As COVID-19 prevented most business travel, Kia Europe applied virtual collaboration functionality to continue working with the other global studios. Designers could collaborate on the same photorealistic models no matter where they were in the world, and be confident that everything from the smallest details to the appearance of the full-size vehicle would look correct.
As Gregory Guillaume says, he used to have to fly to Korea if he wanted to discuss a model with design management at Kia’s global headquarters.
Reviewing a digital model with design management always took at least four days. – “Now I can do it in an hour.”
The ability to perform design reviews virtually offers Kia the chance to save a lot of time, effort and money.
“You might think this is much more complicated than a video call. But the cooperation was very reliable,” he says. Guillaume and his team can be in the same virtual space with the design management team, viewing and discussing the same car model in minute detail.
“This is only possible if we trust what we see and the tools we use. It amazes me that something so complicated works so naturally and simply.”
Despite all the limitations and uncertainties that came with the global pandemic, the use of Varjo and Autodesk VRED allows Kia to continue collaborating with design studios around the world. “This technology brings us together at a time when we can’t be in the same place,” Guillaume says. Together, Kia, Autodesk VRED and Varjo will further advance collaborative automotive design.
Buckle up – it’s going to be an exciting ride!
Varjo is the first mixed reality device supported by Autodesk VRED, the world’s most advanced vehicle visualization software. “It’s the perfect complement between two technologies,” says Lukas Fäth, senior product manager for Autodesk VRED.
With Varjo and VRED, automotive designers can collaborate more efficiently than ever – but there’s another big advantage to incorporating 3D virtual tools into the design review process:
“With VRED’s highest accuracy in design quality and Varjo’s photorealism, designers can identify problems and make iterations earlier than ever before,” Fäth says.