The HTC Vive virtual reality headset only started shipping on April 5, but it seems new ways of using the technology are already popping up.
German car manufacturer BMW announced that it will be incorporating the HTC Vive and mixed reality in the development process of new vehicles, showing that the virtual reality headset has wider applications than just for playing video games.
BMW And VR
In a press release, BMW claimed that it is the first car maker in the world to launch a mixed reality system for vehicle development that has significant advantages over current virtual reality systems. The company also sees the move as the first step in increasing the role of virtual reality in developer workstations.
The company said that it has been using virtual reality systems since the 1990s for the development process, but its investment in the technology was boosted by a partnership with HTC that started with several developer kits of the HTC Vive coming to BMW for use in pilot projects in autumn of 2015.
With the power of the HTC Vive, the company would be able to save significant amounts of time and effort, particularly during the early development stages of new vehicle models. Previously, investigations using virtual reality technology could only be done in high-cost facilities, but with the introduction of the HTC Vive, the process has become cheaper and easier. Additionally, developers can participate in the development of vehicles without having to leave their offices, wherever they may be in the world.
In a virtual reality environment, the functions of the vehicle and its interior designs can be modeled faster. Developers can use the technology to simulate driving the car, which would allow them to see if there are certain components of the vehicle that should be changed such as the position of seats or the location of certain components.
The precise motion tracking offered by the HTC Vive Lighthouse system gives it a huge advantage over other virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift, as BMW developers would be able to fully immerse themselves in an environment that is as close to the real one as possible.
Completing The Mixed Reality System
In addition to the HTC Vive, BMW utilizes Epic Games' Unreal Engine 4, which is capable of stable rendering at rates of 90 frames per second. The computation is done with high-end gaming computers that have water-cooled and overclocked components, including a pair of Nvidia Titan X GPUs and an Intel Core i7 processor.
BMW then adds to the visual components with the introduction of the mixed reality system through a reusable interior assembly. The assembly is capable of creating sounds similar to the engine of BMW vehicles, which combines with virtual reality to allow developers to experience riding or driving the vehicle being designed in various environments.
The Future Of Enterprise VR
BMW has not made any commitments to the HTC Vive, as it seems that the company could switch to another virtual reality headset if it deems another one better at completing its mixed reality system. The company said that it will regularly be evaluating hardware and software options to keep with the developments in technology.
That said, with BMW's adoption of the technology in its work process, the future of virtual reality in business applications shines bright, though that may take years to become widespread.