World-first mixed-reality approach to evaluating vehicle designs unveiled by Volvo Cars and Varjo

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A world-first mixed-reality approach to evaluating vehicle designs, prototypes and active safety technologies has been developed by Volvo Cars and Varjo, a maker of augmented reality headsets. Strengthening the partnership, Volvo Cars Tech Fund will invest in Varjo.

Volvo Cars and Varjo have made it possible for the first time to drive a real car while wearing a mixed-reality headset, seamlessly adding virtual elements or complete features that seem real to both the driver and the car’s sensors, for development purposes. Until now, no other car maker has been able to do this.

The Varjo XR-1 headset provides photorealistic mixed or virtual reality at a high-definition resolution better than anything currently available. As such, the XR-1 can radically reduce development timeframes by creating the ability to evaluate features and designs in an instant.

Compared to its predecessor, the XR-1 adds high-definition cameras to the headset and enables mixed reality. This allows Volvo Cars’ designers and engineers to ‘drive’ future cars and evaluate all features in a simulation environment many years before they exist.

“With this mixed-reality approach, we can start evaluating designs and technologies while they are literally still on the drawing board,” said Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars.

“Instead of the usual static way of evaluating new products and ideas, we can test concepts on the road immediately. This approach offers considerable potential cost savings by identifiying priorities and clearing bottlenecks much earlier in the design and development process.”

The XR-1 also enables Volvo Cars’ engineers to develop and evaluate active safety solutions much easier. Safety experts are able to drive real cars while wearing the XR-1 headset at Volvo’s research facilities in Sweden, and test virtual active safety systems imposed via augmented reality in a real-life environment.

Highly accurate eye-tracking technology embedded inside the XR-1 makes it easy to assess how drivers use a new functionality and whether they are distracted in any way. This technology-based approach to measuring distraction levels ensures that Volvo Cars can develop new features without causing additional distraction.

“From the very beginning, our vision has been to create a product that can seamlessly merge the real and the virtual together,” said Niko Eiden, founder and CEO of Varjo. “The incredibly advanced ways in which Volvo Cars uses the XR-1 show that Varjo’s technology enables things that have been previously impossible. Together with Volvo we have started a new era in professional mixed reality.”

Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, commented, “Varjo is a clear leader in its field. The company’s technology promises a lot for the future, but also offers clear applications already today for Volvo Cars. Varjo is a textbook example of the type of companies we seek to invest in.”

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Rachel's career in journalism began around five years ago when she started working for UKi Media & Events, having recently graduated from Coventry University where she studied the subject. Her favourite aspect of the job is interviewing industry experts, including researchers, scientists, engineers and technicians, and learning more about the groundbreaking technologies and innovations that are shaping the future of the automotive and tire industries.

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